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If you have a loved one with hearing loss, you might be able to recall some difficult interactions in the past. Whether you experienced the difficulty as a disappointment, frustration, or even in terms of sadness and anger, untreated hearing loss can bring up a complex array of emotions both for the person who is hard of hearing and for loved ones.
Although these struggles can feel insurmountable at times, there are steps you can take to accommodate the needs of a person with hearing loss. These accommodation strategies are different for every individual, so the most important thing you can do is to show empathy, concern, and a compassionate approach. With these priorities in place, you will be able to navigate the world of hearing loss together.
Begin with Communication
Knowing that no two experiences of hearing loss are the same, the first step you can take to accommodate your loved one with hearing loss is to ask how you can help. This conversation can be more difficult if your loved one has not yet admitted to hearing difficulty.
However, simply by opening the door to communication, you can let your loved one explain what is helpful. Some people really want their loved ones to slow down the rate of speech, while others find that to be condescending. Some people with hearing loss have one ear that is better than the other, and keeping that in mind can be helpful when you orient yourself toward them, leaning in for a conversation.
Still others find that looking directly in the face is the best approach so that they can consciously or unconsciously read lips and facial expressions to gather meaning. In each of these cases, you will note that just as no two experiences of hearing loss are the same, similarly no single accommodation strategy can solve hearing problems for all people.
General Communication Strategies
Although some loved ones will be able to clearly explain what they need in terms of accommodation, others are not yet aware of what they need or may even be frustrated at the thought of needing help. For these loved ones, you can follow some general principles of good communication that apply to nearly everyone.
Make sure that you are speaking at a sufficient volume, and if you are speaking directly to someone with hearing loss, feel free to bump up the volume a bit more than you’re used to. Although shouting or extending your speech too far can come off as offensive or even annoying to others, it doesn’t hurt to raise the volume a bit.
If you get the sense that your loved one didn’t understand the first thing you said, don’t simply restate the sentence in the same way. Try to rephrase the same idea in a way that can give new context clues. Standing in the same room is always helpful rather than shouting from another room in the house, and many people find it easier to converse face-to-face.
One of the most important things to remember is that your loved one with hearing loss is no less intelligent, simply needs a little help with hearing what you say and getting clarity in the words used.
Seeking Hearing Assistance
These communication strategies will go a long way to help someone with hearing loss, whether they know what they need for accommodation or not. Remaining patient and generous is the key to ongoing success in communication, and your loved one’s needs will likely change over time.
Although these strategies can be quite helpful, they are not durable solutions over time. The best thing you can do to help a loved one with hearing loss is to encourage treatment. Getting a hearing test will let you and your loved one know how advanced the hearing loss has become and will make it possible to get a range of hearing aid recommendations from your provider. Hearing aid technology is advancing rapidly, with new models, styles, and features available all the time to suit your individual needs and lifestyle.