According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 15% of American adults, or 37.5 million Americans aged 18 and over, have reported some trouble hearing. Loss of hearing is more common than it seems, and dealing with it can be frustrating for both family and the person with hearing loss.
The difficulties brought about by hearing loss can affect mental and emotional well-being, and ultimately lead to a diminished quality of life. This is why it is important to know how to treat the ones you love the right way. Here are five tips on how to communicate effectively when speaking to someone with hearing loss.
1. Be patient
Always be patient when you are talking to someone with hearing loss. You may find yourself getting annoyed that you have to repeat yourself, rushing the conversation, and might even try to finish their sentences for them.
Stop yourself and remember that you care for this person. It will take extra time and extra effort to exchange messages with each other. You must be considerate, empathetic, kind, calm and understanding. When you do this, it communicates to your loved one that they are not alone and that you understand their needs and limitations.
2. Put effort into getting their attention
Respectfully call their name, wait for them to look at you, establish eye contact and make sure they know that you want to say something to them. If they don’t respond when you call them, step into their line of sight, politely wave your hands at them, or carefully tap them on their shoulder to get their attention. Don’t get annoyed when they don’t notice you on your first few attempts.
3. Follow expert advice
The responsibility of caring for someone with a hearing impairment does not solely fall on the person with hearing loss. It is also the responsibility of close family and friends to find proper care for them. This is why it is important to seek guidance from experts and professionals who are trained in the field.
Consulting with an expert in healthcare management and wellness can help you put together an effective communication and treatment plan. It can also expose you to other tools and strategies that make communication easier. Trained professionals can provide hearing tests, interpret the data and give recommendations for hearing aids, if needed.
4. Reduce background noise
Background noise can be a major a cause of miscommunication. Reduce, or even eliminate, background noise when communicating with people with hearing impairments so as to help them focus on your words and lessen the strain on them. Examples of background noise include television, music, other people talking, and open windows that expose you to the ambient noise of the streets.
5. Visual cues matter
Visual cues are a form of sign language that are inherent to the way human beings communicate. When you speak, make sure you face them directly so that they can see your face while you are talking.
As you speak, they can watch your mouth and attempt to make out what you are saying by the way your mouth moves. Also, you can exaggerate (within reason) facial expressions, and speak through your body language so they know how you feel and can interpret more accurately what you are trying to communicate to them.
Link your hearts and minds
Dealing with any form disability is never easy, especially disabilities that affect the way we communicate with the world. If your loved one has untreated hearing loss, it’s still possible for you to show your love and support being considerate of their needs.
Patience, empathy, and understanding are the keys to bridging communication gaps. It’s important to find ways to adjust the way we communicate with our loved ones, so our messages don’t get lost between our mouths and their ears.
Specially written for Oklahoma Hearing Center
By: Raylin Johnica