It’s estimated that there are at least 48 million people in the US suffering with hearing loss, making the chance that it may be affecting someone you know. One of the greatest issues with hearing loss is that it is an invisible disability. You can’t tell that someone has it by looking at them initially. However, overtime you may start to notice issues with communication, as they regularly struggle to hear what you are saying. If you suspect someone close to you is struggling to hear what you are saying here are a few tips to improve communication and give them support they need.
Make Sure They Have a Clear View
One of the best ways you can help support someone with hearing loss is be sure they have a clear view of your face. For many with hearing loss, they struggle to hear so the sense of vison compensates. This can include lip reading, body language and facial expression. Due to the common use of masks in public settings this can have added challenges. When trying to communicate with someone with hearing issues, make sure to make eye contact and make sure that your face and body aren’t obscured so they can take full advantage of visual aids.
Get Their Attention
It can be an added challenge to locate the direction and proximity of sound for those with hearing loss. This is particularly the case for those with asymmetrical hearing loss, as the use of both ears aids in the localization of sound. To make it easier for the person with hearing loss make sure to get their attention before speaking. Try tapping them on the shoulder if appropriate or saying their name before you begin.
In addition, don’t try speaking from another room. If you are trying to tell them something while they are washing the dishes it will just get lost! Not only does this make it hard to hear, but also remove any visual cues they may rely upon.
Rephrase rather than repeat
It’s common for certain tones or pitches to be lost when hearing loss sets in and it’s different for everyone. Some people struggle with high pitched sounds while other grapple with lower tones. If someone has to ask you several times to repeat themselves, you may have better success rephrasing instead of repeating. This can add context to what you are trying to say while potentially avoiding the tones you struggle with.
Speake Clearly and Calmly
It’s a common hunch many people have that by yelling a person with hearing loss with be better able to hear you. On the contrary yelling may distort the sound and the shape of your mouth, further confusing the person you are trying to communicate with. Instead of yelling try speaking calmly and clearly, being sure to enunciate each sound. This gives your person a chance to fully understand what you are trying to say. Make sure to pause at the end of sentences to give them time to catch up.
Pay attention to the listening environment
A noisy environment will make it that much harder for a person who is hard of hearing to follow conversation. If you are trying to have a conversation with someone with hearing loss and you want them to feel included, it’s best to choose a location that is rather quiet. A busy restaurant during the dinner rush will just have the person with hearing loss feeling confused, struggling, and feeling left out.
If you have control over your environment, such as at your home and trying to speak to someone with a hearing issue it’s a good idea to turn off any noisy sounds or appliances until after you are done spending time. This can include the radio or TV but may also mean waiting to run the washing machine or dishwasher at a later, nonsocial time.
Suggest a Hearing Exam
Those who treat their hearing with hearing aids find more ease in conversation, improved self-esteem and a greater likeliness of getting out and trying new things. However, 20% of those who could benefit from hearing loss actually use them. If someone you know is struggling with hearing loss, suggest they schedule a hearing exam. Encourage them to schedule one today and find out how much your communication together can improve.