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Ways to Accommodate your Loved Ones with Hearing Loss

In Hearing Loss by Dr. Jason Leyendecker

Dr. Jason Leyendecker
Latest posts by Dr. Jason Leyendecker (see all)

When your loved one has hearing loss, whether they wear hearing aids or not, there are important steps you can take to assist them with hearing and understanding. 

Communication Tips

Those with hearing loss often suffer from isolation, even when surrounded by family and friends. This is because when communicating becomes challenging, they tend to avoid social situations altogether or sometimes they don’t want to ask for help. Below we review communication techniques that will help your loved one hear better and be included in conversations. 

  • Speak clearly– It may be tempting to speak louder or slower in order to help others hear, however oftentimes this is counterproductive. When we slow down we actually start to over enunciate words, it changes the sound and flow of the sentence. Similarly, when we yell or raise our voice, it also changes the tempo of the conversation making it harder to understand. The best strategy is to speak at a normal, maybe slightly elevated, volume and at a regular tempo.
  • Face to face– When speaking to your loved one with hearing loss, it is important to make sure that you are facing each other, preferably at eye level. Do not holler from the kitchen or another room and do not begin speaking to them until you have their attention. Make sure to call their name or get their attention first, then begin to say what you need to say.
  • Rephrase, not repeat– When speaking clearly and getting their attention aren’t enough and you need to repeat yourself, don’t. Rephrase your statement instead of repeating it. For example, if you say “Nice weather we’re having” and then need to repeat yourself, instead rephrase by saying something like “It’s a beautiful day outside.” By rephrasing your statement, you give your loved one a chance to use context and a few words from each statement to understand you better.

Environmental Modifications

In addition to the above communication tricks, there are environmental modifications that can be made to assist your loved one’s hearing. 

  • Well-lit space– It may seem counterintuitive but seeing well helps us hear better too. Without realizing it, most of us use our environment for context in a conversation. Whether reading lips or using body language, seeing assists us all with hearing, although perhaps more so in those with hearing loss. Make sure that your environment, whether a room in your home or a booth at a restaurant is well-lit for your loved one.
  • Reduce background noise- When there is a lot of background noise, say at a restaurant or large gatherings, it can be more difficult for your loved one to understand you. If they wear hearing aids, there are settings that can be used to reduce background noise. However even with this hearing aid setting, background noise should still be reduced as much as possible to help with hearing. When having a conversation make sure to turn down the television or music or move to a quieter area. If going to a restaurant you can make a reservation in advance requesting a quieter area of the restaurant to sit. 
  • Subtitles- The modern world gives us many opportunities to include everyone. When sitting down to watch television or going to a movie, make sure to set up or request subtitles. They are an easy and quick way to make sure your loved one gets to enjoy the entertainment as well.

Advocating for Your Loved One

Ultimately, hearing loss presents many challenges however it is important to understand that they are manageable and not at all insurmountable. Because those with age-related hearing loss are often slow to seek treatment and also because even with hearing aids it can still be difficult to communicate, these communication steps are vital to making sure everyone is included. 

Unfortunately, there is sometimes a stigma for those with age-related hearing loss that make it more difficult to ask for help such as repeating a statement or turning on the subtitles. Due to this mindset, it is important that family members and friends work to encourage self advocating and when necessary become that advocate for them.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any changes to your hearing, make an appointment with an audiologist today to discuss your options.