Improving Communication with Your Family

In Communication by Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A

Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A
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If you are a family member of someone with hearing loss, you understand the struggle that day-to-day communication can become. Not only are there missing pieces of information, but there can be an emotional charge to even the simplest interaction. Frustrations run high in all directions, and without a careful concerted effort to manage these feelings we can end up hurting those we love most. The good news is that communication does not need to be so difficult. With a few simple strategies in mind, you can improve communication with your family member who has hearing loss. Your ability to show patience and concern will work wonders in the next conversation you engage.

Develop a Communicative Environment

One of the first things you can do is to foster a home environment that promotes healthy communication. Remaining willing to talk about our thoughts and feelings can be difficult for anyone, not only those with hearing loss. Yet, those who have hearing loss can easily feel like they are ignored, unimportant, or neglected. In a practical sense, they may not even know some of the times you are communicating. If possible keep the noise level in the home to a minimum, making it easier to have a conversation when you need to. Positioning furniture in a way that promotes easy lines of sight can also work wonders.

Cultivate Habits for Easier Listening

Those who do not have hearing loss can be insensitive to the basic things that make listening more difficult. One of the most important things you can do to help your family member with hearing loss is to make sure you are visible when you are speaking. Rather than calling out a question or comment from another room, make your presence known before you speak. You may even want to flag your family member’s attention by addressing them by name before you speak. Once you have their attention, make sure it is possible to see one another easily. Reading lips, facial cues, and body language are all ways that people with hearing loss may consciously or subconsciously assist the communication process.

Speak Clearly without Condescension

One of our impulses when talking with a person who has hearing loss is to talk very loudly or slowly. Although this strategy might make it easier to hear for some people, it is not always effective. Furthermore, the tone of a person who is slowing down their speech can come off as condescending, even as if you’re treating the listener like a child. Rather than using these strategies, many find it more helpful if you clearly enunciate your words, pronouncing all the consonants. If you say something that your family member does not understand, then try to rephrase yourself rather than simply repeating what you said again. This additional context can be helpful in deciphering what you had to say, and consonant sounds are often the first to disappear from hearing ability. When you are answering a yes/no question, it is also helpful to add context. The words “yes” and “no” can be shockingly similar for a person with hearing loss.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

Although these approaches can be helpful in a number of ways, they are also somewhat like putting a bandage on the communication problem. As time goes on, you are likely to find that these communication issues get worse, and treatment for hearing loss is the way to make a lasting change in your family member’s conversational ability.

Encouraging your family member to get treatment can be a sensitive topic, especially if they are not yet ready to admit to hearing loss. The conversations you have should be conducted in a calm and quiet place where it is easy to talk. Above all make sure that you communicate your support for this family member, seeking what is best in the long run.

Treatment for hearing loss can be a lasting solution to these conversational issues, and the process begins with a simple hearing test. Getting your family member to the point of scheduling the hearing test can be the most important part of the process. When you are ready, contact us. We’re here to help!