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Have you ever witnessed someone talking rudely to another person with hearing loss? Although they might have the best intentions, there are some common pitfalls when someone tries to communicate with someone who has hearing loss. Some of these include speaking at an awkwardly loud volume, slowing down speech to an extreme, or acting as if a person isn’t able to keep up with complex ideas.
Each of these pitfalls can be a mistake, but they can feel very isolating to someone whose mind is sharp as a tack but simply has trouble hearing. The following are some of the things that people with hearing loss wish you knew. Looking at these principles from the first-person perspective of a person with hearing loss will help you understand what they are going through.
Keep this point of view in mind during your next conversation so that you can foster a context of loving support and sensitivity while showing that you respect and value your loved one.
You don’t have to speak for me.
If we are in a group conversation, you might be tempted to cut me out altogether. Although you might have a good idea how I would respond to a question, I would like to have the opportunity to speak for myself. Rather than answering questions for me, I would appreciate it if you would help me hear what the person had asked. Repeating the question in a way I can hear makes me feel important and included in the conversation, and you might be surprised by what I have to contribute!
Hearing loss wears me out.
The process of trying to decipher meaning from a random assortment of syllables is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces. While I’m listening and trying to make sense of what you are saying, sometimes I feel like it would be easier to tune out. If you see my eyes glazing over and my attention wandering, please take the opportunity to ask me a question. Simply giving me the chance to explain that I have trouble hearing can give us the opportunity to find a better context for the conversation.
Looking at me while you speak is very helpful.
Not only does it help me see your facial expression and the body language that helps me understand, but the volume of your voice tends to be much better when it is directed at me. One of the most difficult things is when you speak to me from another room. Often I can hear that someone is speaking, but I can’t make out what you are saying. If you are expecting me to respond or to remember what you said, I probably wasn’t able to hear you in the first place. Simply walking into the room where I am and looking at me makes a world of difference.
I could use your support seeking treatment.
Although I know that I have trouble hearing, it might be hard for me to admit to you at first. If you help me have a conversation about my experiences, we can embark on the search for help together. Going together for my hearing test would be a nice way to spend time together, and I could use your assistance remembering all the details they present. When my hearing health professional delivers a recommendation of the kind of hearing aids suited to my needs, I would love to have your input on what pair might be the best for me. Throughout the process, I would also appreciate some patience from you as I move toward a better way for us to communicate in the future!