The person experiencing a hearing loss is usually the last one to know. This is because hearing loss usually occurs over an extended period of time. It is not uncommon for family members and close friends to recognize the signs and symptoms of hearing loss early on, but there are some challenges when it comes to dealing with your loved one’s condition and encouraging them to get the help they need. To ease the discomfort and make things a bit easier, I have compiled 5 tips for helping loved ones with a hearing loss.
Be Sensitive and Empathetic
Bringing up your loved one’s hearing loss at the wrong time or in the wrong way is likely to backfire by causing them to feel inferior, leading them into depression, or driving them into isolation. Because self-worth and self-confidence are a part of admitting to a hearing loss problem, it is essential to be sensitive to these feelings and approach the topic from one of love and concern. The temptation to become pushy or insistent about getting their hearing checked or getting hearing aids will lead to failure. Patience is a key element, because it might take a while before your loved one will come around.
One of the best ways to approach the issue of your loved one’s hearing loss is to educate yourself. There are plenty of valuable statistics, studies, treatment options, and treatment success rates available from the National Institute on Deafness. Being informed about the overall cultural impact and consequences of untreated hearing loss as well as tips on how to approach the inevitable conversation about your loved one’s hearing loss are all valuable resources to help you deal with the situation.
Suggesting a Hearing Exam
Most people struggle with having someone else point out a weakness, regardless of your best intentions. Consequently, there is no easy way to go about suggesting a hearing exam without encountering some resistance. Accompanying your loved one to have your hearing tested along with them is one approach to consider. This approach helps alleviate any anxiety they might have, and it certainly won’t hurt you to undergo a screening as well. Communicating your concerns and asking their family doctor to refer them for a hearing test is another approach to keep in mind.
Adjust Your Communication Style
Speaking to a person with a hearing loss presents some significant challenges. However, there are some specific tips and tricks related to adjusting your communication style, which produce positive results, including:
- Be sure to face your loved one in a well-lit room, enhancing their ability to understand using visual cues.
- Slow down, maintain eye contact and enunciate with clarity, but avoid exaggerating your lip movements or shouting.
- Avoid the temptation toward frustration or irritation if your loved one asks you to repeat something. Rephrasing what you said can make it easier for them to understand as well.
- Signal changes in topic with greater clarity, which helps them keep up with the conversation.
These conversation tips will facilitate better communication with a loved one with a hearing loss while reducing the frustration of the experience for both of you.
Be A Hearing Loss Advocate
A non-pushy way to be supportive and provide encouragement is to become an advocate for hearing loss. Events like family gatherings and social functions tend to produce the greatest discomfort for individuals with a hearing loss. By making yourself available to accompany your loved one to events like these and provide them with discrete assistance, you build up a rapport, which will go a long way to having that dreaded conversation about having their hearing checked. Work behind the scenes by making others aware of the communication tips listed above also helps to alleviate discomfort. Take caution in selecting who you talk to because there are people who will use it for an occasion to gossip, hindering rather than helping.
Using these tips will allow you and your loved one to cope with a hearing loss until they are ready to receive the help they need or to facilitate better communication with those with advanced hearing loss. Even with assistance, some cases take time to correct. Your capacity to remain patient and serve as a source of support and encouragement is important. The team at Sound Audiology and Hearing Aids in Walla Walla, WA and the surrounding area and I make ourselves available as another resource for support to those dealing with the hearing loss of a loved one as well as providing a comfortable place for hearing exams and treatment.