Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
If your spouse, friend or coworker has hearing loss, there are plenty of ways to help him or her cope and thrive. Here’s how to provide support to someone with hearing loss:
Learn what it’s like to live with hearing loss
It’s well known—and maybe you’ve experienced it—that hearing loss can put a strain on relationships, causing stress, hurt feelings and frustration over miscommunication. If you sometimes get frustrated, one good thing to do is learn more about what hearing loss is like. Having empathy and being able to relate to what your loved one or friend is experiencing with hearing loss may help increase your patience.
Besides having a good conversation in which you ask questions to better understand their experience, you can use technology to learn even more. There are several sites that will simulate a hearing loss so you can get a clear picture of what the world sounds like for a person with hearing loss.
Be an advocate
One thing you can do to show your support is to be an advocate for your loved one with hearing loss. For example, it can be especially difficult for a person with hearing loss to hear in group situations, whether it’s at a dinner or party, due to the background noise. Before a family gathering, you can call or email the other relatives to let them know some tips and tactics to help foster more successful communication with the family member with hearing loss. At dinner, you can make sure to sit next to that person and let him or her know that if a punch line is missed, he or she can turn to you to get the missed information. On a more general level, you can be an advocate for those with hearing loss. For example, if you stay at a hotel, you can check in to see if they provide services and rooms equipped for people who are hard of hearing. If they do not, you can suggest this to management.
Do’s and don’ts for talking to someone with hearing loss
When someone has hearing loss, oral communication, a vital function of participating in society and relationships, is negatively affected. But remember, effective communication goes far beyond spoken words. Gestures and facial expressions enhance the meaning of the message.
Whenever possible, face the person when talking, keep your mouth uncovered and gently get his or her attention before beginning a conversation. Do not chew gum while talking because it distorts the shape of your mouth making lipreading more difficult. Your friend may have extra difficulty hearing when he or she is stressed, tired, upset or sick. Be flexible in having conversations until there’s a better time.
More: What if it’s your spouse who has hearing loss but isn’t ready to admit they need help? Here’s how to talk to your spouse about hearing loss.
Attend hearing care appointments
If the person is your spouse or a close loved one, lend your support by being involved in their hearing care appointments. Not only will this show how much you care about their hearing, but it will also give you a chance to ask the hearing care professional questions about their hearing loss. You can help by writing down vital information and sharing your observations about your loved one’s hearing loss and its effects with the hearing care professional.
Suggest auditory rehabilitation
Family members impacted by hearing loss may want to look into aural rehabilitation for their loved one. This is a series of classes that focuses on improving communication for people adjusting to hearing aids and cochlear implants or just for those who are living with hearing loss. Aural rehabilitation can:
- Help people adjust to a family member’s hearing loss, including providing communication tips and counseling.
- Assist people with hearing loss in interpreting visual cues and improve lipreading skills.
- Provide people with tips for handling challenging conversations.
- Educate someone with hearing loss on his or her legal rights to accommodations in the workplace and in academic environments.
- Help people learn how to listen again with cochlear implants and hearing aids.
Living with someone with hearing loss
Communication is important in any relationship, whether it’s a friendship, business relationship or a romantic relationship. Communication can break down when one or both partners has hearing loss. The best thing you can do if your partner or spouse has hearing loss is be a strong support for them and encourage them to seek help.
If you are the one in the partnership with hearing loss, your personal relationship will benefit greatly when you take the first step toward better hearing. Better hearing isn’t just a gift you give yourself, but the better communication will bring joy to your spouse or partner, too. Find a hearing aid center near you and make the call today.