If you have a loved one with hearing loss, you can provide useful support that helps with effective communication!
Hearing loss can make navigating conversations stressful. People with hearing loss often work harder to try to hear and process what is being said, which can be tiring. This is where you step in. There are concrete ways you can better support your loved one’s hearing needs, making it easier to engage in conversations.
- Find out about their hearing needs. For starters, it is important to have a conversation with your loved one about their hearing loss. This includes asking what their hearing needs are, how you can best accommodate those needs, and if there are specific strategies that work for them during conversations. There are many ways hearing loss is experienced, so learning more about how your loved one navigates impaired hearing allows you to provide support that is useful to them.
- Practice communication strategies. Asking your loved one about their hearing needs also allows you to learn more about the specific strategies you can use to best support their hearing during a conversation. A few examples of effective communication strategies include:
- Making sure your loved one is ready before you start a conversation. Grabbing their attention before you speak is a good way to do this – simply call their name or tap them on the shoulder.
- Maintain visibility throughout the conversation. You want to make sure they can fully see you because this helps them access nonverbal cues like body language, lip reading, and gestures. Avoid starting a conversation from a different room.
- Rephrase rather than repeat if they missed something you said. This provides greater opportunity to detect and process what you are saying.
- Speak in a natural tone, avoid projecting your voice too loudly, and be sure to take pauses between sentences.
- If you are sharing detailed information like dates or addresses, send this via text or email.
- Introduce the topic of conversation rather than diving right in.
Using these strategies contributes to effective communication, allowing your loved one to participate more comfortably.
- Eliminate background noise. Background noise makes it harder for anyone to hear but can be especially challenging for people with hearing loss. It creates more noise to have to process and filter through. With hearing loss, the brain is already working harder, expending greater energy and using more resources to absorb, process, and understand sound, and the presence of background noise requires even more work. Eliminating background noise, or reducing it as much as possible, is helpful. You can do this by powering off any sources of noise – TV, music, household appliances, putting phones on silent, closing windows, avoiding places that are noisy (like restaurants, especially during peak hours).
- Avoid multitasking. Though you may be tempted to do things around the house while having a conversation with your loved one, this can take a toll on communication. Multitasking can produce more noise, prevent you from being visible, and be distracting. It is important to be fully present and engaged during the conversation so you can pay attention to your loved one’s hearing needs.
- Be intentional about the environment. Another useful strategy is being intentional about environmental factors like light, noise, and seating. It is important for spaces to be well lit so that your loved one is able to comfortably see you and track nonverbal cues. This means you should avoid places that are dimly lit. Additionally, avoid places that are noisy or make sure that quieter seating options are available. Lastly, if you are seated around a table, be sure that your loved one is able to sit in the center so that they are able to see as many people as possible.
- Check-in regularly. Checking-in throughout the conversation is also helpful. You can do this by asking if there is anything you can clarify or if there are any adjustments you can make.
Developing and practicing these practices is a great way to make environments and conversations much more accessible for your loved one with hearing loss!