Ways to Accommodate Your Loved Ones with Hearing Loss

Ways to Accommodate Your Loved Ones with Hearing Loss

Bonnie L. Baehr, Au.D.

You might be surprised how hearing loss can quickly change someone’s life – especially for those who were once social. Hearing loss is an issue that starts with the ears but quickly affects communication, relationships, cognitive functioning, and even changes in personality over years. It’s also a condition that often develops gradually, so people often don’t realize how bad it’s become, or the lifestyle changes until it has gotten to an extremely obvious state. At this point, the work to reverse the negative side effects of hearing loss can be exhausting in itself. If you love someone with a hearing loss, there are several things you can do to support someone on their journey towards treatment and being able to communicate to the best of their abilities.

What are Accommodations for Hearing Loss?

The term “accommodation” is described as an alteration of environment, curriculum format, or equipment, which allows someone with a disability to access content and/or complete assigned tasks. Hearing loss is a recognized disability affecting 15% of the US population, so it is very likely that someone you know, maybe even a loved one is suffering from this condition. Accommodating hearing loss is much more than speaking loudly – in fact, raising your voice can distort sounds for the hearing impaired. The most important thing to remember when speaking with a loved one who has hearing loss is to be patient and that clear communication is a form of expressing love. It’s all too common for hearing impaired people suffer from chronic depression and anxiety from years of feeling left out and confused in social interactions. Taking the time to help your loved one hear, can allow healing to truly begin.

Accommodating How You Speak

When speaking with someone with hearing loss it is important to face them, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly, enunciating each word. It’s important to speak slowly but not so slowly that it comes off as condescending. As stated earlier, avoid shouting, but choose a volume that is robust to make sure they have ample chance to hear.

Of course, one of the best methods for communicating with someone with a known hearing loss is to ask them what helps them. If they are aware, they have a hearing loss, chances are they know the answers and will have suggestions to help them understand you. For instance, some people tend to favor one each over another, while many others find that being able to read lips helps significantly.

Location is Key

When communicating with someone with hearing loss, sometimes location makes a big difference. It can be very difficult for many with hearing loss to follow a conversation when in a crowded or noisy room with competing conversations or distracting noises. Choose places to speak which will be quieter and eliminate distraction. Turn down the radio and wait to run noisy appliances till after the conversation is over.

It may also be helpful to ensure there is ample lighting when speaking. Make sure your face is unobscured and that the other person has a clear view of you. Many hearing-impaired people not only rely on lip-reading to supplement what they can’t hear but body language and facial expression as well. Avoid speaking to someone from another room, as this will eliminate the visual cues which add ease to their communication.

Treating Hearing Loss

Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. However, these amazing devices can be programmed to amplify only the sounds which you struggle with. While accommodations can make the hearing loss easier for the people you love there is no substitute for treatment. When hearing aids are worn consistently and daily, you can hear your loved ones with enhanced clarity and start to heal rifts grown from years of poor communication. You can regain independence and become more active, which will improve your health and overall mood. 

There is so much to gain from treating hearing. If your loved one most likely has an untreated hearing loss, a wonderful way to support them is to suggest that they seek treatment. You can even offer to schedule and take them to the appointment yourself. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam and help give your loved ones the gift of communication.