When people are diagnosed with hearing loss, it can be difficult not only for them but for their close friends and family members. While hearing loss can have drastic effects on a particular person’s ability to interact with the world, it can also be significantly difficult for their loved ones who also need to learn to navigate situations for and with a person with hearing loss.
One of the most difficult things to learn after a loved one is diagnosed with hearing loss is how to communicate effectively with them in a way that maintains their dignity and with their best interests in mind. Although hearing aids can make the challenge of communicating through hearing loss much easier, there are still quite a few steps we can take as loved ones to make hearing aids even more effective. Here are some of those tactics:
- Speak clearly and distinctly. There’s no need to shout or exaggerated mouth movements when speaking to someone with hearing loss. Shouting can actually make one’s voice more difficult to understand and it can feel demeaning or dehumanizing to the person on the receiving end. Speaking clearly and enunciating can make it easier to read one’s lips or understand what they’re saying.
- Face the person directly. When talking to people without hearing loss, you may be tempted to shout from another room or continue a conversation while you start another task. Doing so might allow you to multitask during a conversation, but for people with hearing loss, it might make it impossible to understand what you’re saying. When someone has hearing loss, it is often best to be on the same level as that person, in good lighting, and face them directly, so that they can see your moth.
- Avoid talking too quickly. While it’s rude to speak excessively slowly to someone with hearing loss, speaking too quickly is often incredibly difficult to understand. A nice, casual pace with a slight pause between sentences or phrases will make it easier to follow along to a conversation or allow someone to lip read, if necessary.
- Keep your hands away from your face. Although it might be habit to cover up your mouth while talking and eating, such practices make it very difficult for people with hearing loss to understand conversations, especially if they have to lip read.
- Try to minimize background noise during conversations. A loud city subway or a busy cafe might not be the best place to have a conversation with a friend with hearing loss. The background noise in these places can be distracting and can prevent someone from understanding what you’re saying. Try to avoid situations where there will be lots of background noise or loud sounds during your conversation.
- Know how to position yourself for better communication. If a person with hearing loss has one ear that’s better than the other, try to position yourself near the better ear. This may take some getting used to but will be great in the long run.
- Remember that it’s harder to understand people if you’re sick or tired. While this is true for everyone, it’s important to remember that people with hearing loss might struggle to understand conversations if they are sick or tired. Thus, effective and patient communication strategies become even more prudent in these situations when you might have to communicate important information to a person with hearing loss.
Ultimately, hearing loss is a condition that affects not only an individual but their loved ones. Luckily, there are a number of steps we can all take to make communication easier for people with hearing loss so they can continue living the lives they love.