If you are experiencing hearing loss, or are the loved one of someone with this debilitating hearing loss, you may experience the feeling of being ignored, frustration and separation from the relationship and isolation from daily family life. These are all typical reactions to the communication difficulties you are experiencing as a result of hearing loss. However, family life doesn't have to suffer if everyone can agree to follow these ten rules.
1. Don't take it personally - When communication challenges pop up due to hearing loss, take a deep breath. Remind yourself – no one is purposely trying to be rude. If you don’t understand someone, take it in stride; you can fix it and move on, rather than letting hearing loss become cause for anger.
2. Get the listener's attention first - When you want to speak to someone who suffers from hearing loss, especially when they're involved in a task, gently touch them to get their attention before speaking. Alternately, saying their name and waiting for them to look at you before continuing ensures you have their attention before talking. This gives the person with hearing loss a chance to concentrate on listening to you and if necessary, reduce background noise by muting the TV or turning off the faucet or noisy appliance, before you begin speaking.
3. Clearer is better than louder - Speaking clearly, enunciating each syllable, generally helps the person with hearing loss understand more than shouting.
4. Add pauses to your speech - People often think their family member with hearing loss will understand more if they slow speech down dramatically and drag out each word. This is a myth. It's much more useful to slow your speech down a little bit by putting a slightly longer pause between each word, rather than saying the words slowly.
5. Avoid one-word answers - For an individual with hearing loss, a one-word "yes" answer can sound the same to one syllable "no" response. Especially in background noise or when the listener is unable to see the speaker. The alternative is saying, "Yes, I did do that," or "No, I was not able to do that." Those extra syllables require little effort and greatly benefit the listener with hearing loss. Giving them a better chance to understand what you are saying. People with hearing loss can greatly benefit from more words as this allows for more context to gather meaning. Even simple words like" cannot" are easier to understand than the contracted "can't," which is easily mistaken for "can" and may cause disastrous results.
6. Get closer - In challenging noisy situations, like parties, restaurants, or other locations where background noise is an issue. Put yourself in a position where can face the person affected by hearing loss, with whom you're conversing. Resist the temptation to call out from another room – walk to the location of the person you're seeking and then talk at a reasonable level.
7. Rephrase, don't repeat - If someone with hearing loss indicates they don't understand what you said, avoid saying the exact same thing again. Instead, rephrase the sentence so it’s stated differently.
8. Get professional help - If communication difficulties due to hearing loss are creating family conflict, support is available. Most Audiologists are experts at helping family members cope with hearing loss and will enable them to learn new communication strategies, and are happy to assist. Advice coming from a neutral third-party is often easier to accept rather than the input from somebody close to the person affected by hearing loss.
9. Wear your devices- If you are the person with hearing loss and you have assistive devices wear them whenever possible. It shows to your loved ones that you are serious about enabling communication regardless of your hearing loss. If you are the loved one of a person who is resistant to wearing their devices, show appreciation when they do wear them.
10. Get the facts - If you or a family member are experiencing trouble and not able to discern sound as well as you think you should, you owe it, to yourself and your loved ones to find out what's going on. Only a licensed professional Audiologist or physician can thoroughly test and determine the best course of action for your hearing loss. Don't delay getting a test – every day is a new opportunity to communicate effectively with your loved ones regardless of hearing loss.
If you wear your listening devices and use these strategies and you're still struggling, call today to make an appointment with your Audiologist. These small but sophisticated and powerful devices require regular maintenance, and yours may be due for a check-up. They will need to be reprogrammed if your hearing loss has changed or checked to ensure they're functioning correctly. Your Audiologist may also suggest re-testing or may recommend aids or other tactics to assist in situations where you have the most significant difficulty.
Our connection to loved ones, families and friends is vital to our mental, physical and emotional well-being. Hearing loss can create barriers to that connection if we let it do so. If you or your family member are diagnosed with hearing loss and listening devices are suggested, the time to take action is now. Devices will improve not only your ability to discern sound but also the essential relationships in your life, regardless of your age. Everyone benefits when hearing loss is appropriately and effectively treated and excellent communication strategies are used. For yourself and your family, contact HearClear Audiology today.
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