Supporting a friend or loved one who is facing hearing loss is new territory for many people. Many people find that knowledge is power, so gathering information on hearing loss can help friends and loved ones better understand what someone is experiencing in regards to hearing loss. The Internet is a great place to start gathering information, via a simple search of “What is hearing loss?” Other research topics can include how to communicate with someone who is hard of hearing and researching how hearing aids work. Understanding the basic aspects of life with hearing loss can help both the person experiencing the loss and their loved ones acclimate to their new journey.
At some point in life, approximately 10% of the general population will experience hearing loss – which is enough hearing loss to warrant or recommend hearing aids. As people get older, that number goes from 10% up to 30% or even 35%. So, the more people age, the more people are going to require some form of hearing aid. Knowing how to communicate with people with hearing loss is incredibly valuable information, especially considering many of us know or will know someone who is experiencing hearing loss.
It is important for friends and loved ones to understand that speaking very loudly or yelling at someone with hearing loss is not ideal. When people resort to yelling or speaking very loudly, it becomes difficult for them to use the muscles that also allow them to smile when they speak. Something this seemingly small often has a big impact on relationships, since the less people smile the more tension arises, and this in turn can cause the person with hearing loss to feel that people are angry or frustrated with them.
In many ways, hearing loss doesn’t only affect a person’s hearing, but their quality of life, even their relationships. Many people who experience hearing loss find that they lose the ability to hear soft sounds while becoming more sensitive to loud sounds, which can be difficult to explain outside of a hearing test. In addition, the tension that arises from having people yelling to communicate can reduce enjoyment of socialization, which can greatly reduce one’s quality of life.
When people are yelling to be heard or constantly having to speak very loudly, it is clearly time to encourage a friend or loved one to get a hearing test and, if necessary, get fit for a hearing aid. Making the decision to be proactive about hearing loss not only improves hearing, but improves the quality of life for people experiencing hearing loss as well as for their friends and family. When people can hear clearly, they no longer struggle with misunderstanding things, and they’re able to stay engaged in conversations and relationships, to keep up with the activities that they enjoy, and this greatly improves their quality of life.
When interacting with a person who is hard of hearing, it is also important to be conscientious about how we speak to them. To begin, make sure the person is looking at you and that you have their attention. You can do this by saying their name or positioning yourself in front of them. Once you see that they are focused on you, then proceed with your conversation, knowing that they are able to follow what you’re saying. Visual cues can also be very helpful when communicating with someone with hearing loss. Lip reading can help a person to more clearly understand, as can speaking at a slower pace and a lower tone, which is easier for most people to understand.
Some other tips to improve communication are to make sure competing sounds are reduced or removed altogether. This includes things like turning off the TV or radio when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone who is hard of hearing. These sorts of distractions make a conversation difficult for most people, and especially for people with hearing loss.
Perhaps the most important tip is to encourage a friend or loved one who appears to be experiencing hearing loss to get a hearing test and to consider a hearing aid. If left untreated, hearing loss tends to cause people to isolate themselves, and this can even cause strain in relationships. A family member or a friend can play a big role in supporting a loved one who is experiencing hearing loss. Helping them research the topic of hearing loss, offering moral support as well as practical support if they need assistance getting to appointments or learning how to use a new hearing aid can all ease the transition into life with hearing loss. Friends and loved ones can also serve as an advocate for the person experiencing hearing loss, as sometimes the person may need an extra hand in explaining their symptoms or recording information. The support of friends and family can make the journey through experiencing hearing loss much less isolating.