If you have a loved one, whether it’s a spouse, co-worker, good friend, family member or neighbor who experiences hearing loss, you may be wondering how best to support them. Luckily, there are a number of easy ways you can be supportive and compassionate to those with hearing loss.
The main thing that most with hearing loss will tell you is that they don’t want to be patronized. There is often a subtle stigma surrounding the deaf and those with diminished hearing, that the person experiencing hearing difficulties is slow, confused or weak. This is simply not true. Those with hearing loss experience no cognitive difficulties and they are not weak – they simply have diminished hearing. Speaking down to a person with hearing loss or treating them like a child, or as if they are frail, is insulting and unnecessary. All someone with hearing loss needs is a little support and accommodation.
If your hearing-impaired loved one still has partial hearing, you may be able to communicate with them by employing a few easy tricks to ensure that they hear you. Lean down to their level, try to amplify your voice so that they can understand you, speak clearly while facing them so that they may read your lips and in some cases you may try to speak louder, though this often isn’t the best option. Amplifying is better than simply speaking louder. After all, you don’t want to yell at the person. If your loved one reads lips, try not to chew gum or use words that are hard to enunciate. Try using different words or rephrasing if they still can’t make it out.
Most of all, be patient. Your loved one may have days where it’s simply too difficult to understand. Learn to adapt and try to take it in stride when your loved one is having trouble. Learn to read their cues, offering understanding when they are frustrated and tired, and laughing along with them when misunderstandings happen. Empathy goes a very long way.
In cases where a loved one is deaf, learning ASL and other forms of non-verbal communication is a kind thing to do that will benefit you in life. Having a handy notebook nearby to jot down notes or using assistive devices from cell phones to personal amplifiers can also help.
For those with diminished hearing, they may eventually choose to be fitted with a hearing aid. There are several different types of hearing aids on the market, the main three being the behind the ear (BTE), in the ear (ITE) and in the canal (ITC).
All of these are small, easy to use, all but invisible and can partially restore hearing even to those with severe hearing loss. If your loved one is considering a hearing aid, encourage them to go get a hearing test with an audiologist to determine which one is right for their specific needs. Offering to go along or drive the patient is a good way to show support; the benefit is yours also, as you will have the opportunity to ask questions and gain a further understanding of hearing loss and the treatments available.
If your loved one’s hearing problems appear to be getting more severe, they experience balance issues or seem to be in pain, encourage them to contact a doctor immediately. Their health is of the utmost importance!
Acting as an advocate and ally for your loved one is so important. Speak out about issues that affect the hearing-diminished community, point out issues of accessibility in public and push for better disability laws. Your loved one may be busy adapting to life with hearing loss, so your support and assistance in this area will benefit them greatly. Encouragement and positivity can help your loved one feel more confident in their decisions.
If you have any questions on how to further support a loved one with hearing problems, calling an audiologist yourself to learn more, such as The Hearing Doctors at (630) 315-2899 is a great idea. They can guide you in the best ways to offer support and assistance without allowing the patient to become too reliant on outside help. Your loved one can learn to manage life with hearing loss, and they will. Your goal is to give them understanding, empathy and support every step of the way.