Ways to Accommodate Your Loved Ones with Hearing Loss (1)

Did you know that over 50 million Americans have hearing loss? Older adults often have age-related hearing loss, but younger adults, teenagers, and children can have hearing loss from exposure to loud noise, an illness or injury, or even due to genetics.

If you have a friend or family member with hearing loss, there are a few ways you can make accommodations for their hearing loss. These strategies can make it easier to communicate with loved ones with hearing loss.

Turn Off Background Noise

Think about the last time you were in a crowded restaurant. Did you have trouble hearing the person at the other end of the table? Perhaps all the background noise made it very difficult to pick out the sound of their voice.

Now imagine you have hearing loss. For your loved one with hearing loss, all those background noises become even more intrusive. It’s harder than ever to pick out speech sounds, and focus on the sounds they want to hear. 

You can accommodate your loved one by turning off the TV, radio, or any other background noise in your home. Is the neighbor mowing their lawn? Then close the window. Are you meeting for a coffee? Then pick a coffee shop on a quiet street or one that doesn’t play loud music.

Sit Face-to-Face

It’s always easier to hear when you’re sitting face to face. The sound of your voice will travel straight towards your friend making it easier to hear. They will also be able to see your facial expressions, read your lips, and use these additional cues to help them follow the conversation.

Don’t Get Impatient

Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes for a moment. Straining to hear is exhausting. Your loved one is struggling to make out each sound, and there are some words or sounds they just can’t make out. They may rely on context or other cues to piece together what you’ve said.

If your loved one asks you to repeat something, or they answer inappropriately, don’t get impatient. Instead, cheerfully rephrase what you said, or clarify what you said if their answer didn’t make sense. It’s easy to get frustrated when your loved one has a hard time understanding you, but being patient can improve communication and deepen your connection.

Try Rephrasing

Did your loved one just ask you to repeat yourself? Instead of repeating the sentence word for word, try rephrasing and adding in additional context. Your loved one probably understood some of what you said, so by changing the wording and adding in some more details, they will have a better chance of understanding you.

If you repeat the exact same thing, they may get tripped up by the same word or phrase, and still fail to understand what you said.

Set the Stage

Are you excited to share a story with your loved one? Before launching into a story or abruptly changing the subject, take a moment to give your loved one some context. For example, you can say “I’m going to tell you a story about something that happened at work” so they’ll already be clued in to what’s happening. Giving them this extra context helps orient your loved one in the conversation, so they can use their energy focusing on what you’re saying rather than scrambling to figure out what you’re talking about. 

Talk About Hearing Aids

Is your loved one avoiding getting hearing aids? You can start to normalize hearing aids by talking about hearing technology. For example, you can bring up a friend who went for a hearing test or share some new things you learned about hearing aids.

Go With Your Loved One to the Hearing Test

Encourage your loved one to get a hearing test. Remind them that their hearing loss is affecting you as well. You’re doing everything you can to accommodate them and help them hear, but you miss the fluid conversations and the inside jokes. By treating hearing loss, they can get back to hearing all the little things and enjoy better hearing. 

If your loved one is nervous about the hearing test, offer to go with them! It’s a great idea to bring a friend or family member to a hearing test. There’s a lot to cover during the test and consultation, so having a friend along can make it easier to take it all in.