Communicating is one of the most important building blocks of healthy relationships. You discuss the important things that are happening in your life and share little moments over a cup of coffee. But when communication breaks down, your friendships and relationships start to suffer. Hearing loss is a major obstacle to clear communication, so here are a few tips to help you communicate clearly with your loved one who struggles with hearing loss.
A Two-way Street
Communication is a two-way street, and both people must put in the effort to understand each other. Your loved one with hearing loss wants to understand you and is putting in 100% as they strain to hear and understand you. If you want clear communication, be willing to meet your loved one halfway by giving them your undivided attention and doing everything you can to help them hear.
Face to Face Communication
The first rule of clear communication is to face your loved one directly. Don’t yell at them from across the house or start talking to them when your back is turned. They’ll have a hard time realizing you’re speaking to them and will miss a lot of what you’re trying to say. Always face your loved one and get on the same level. If they’re sitting down, pull up a chair. Turn on the light if it’s getting dark, and make sure that your loved one has a clear view of your face. Face to face communication means you’ll have their attention before you start speaking, signaling them to begin listen carefully, and allowing them to follow all your facial cues.
When talking, try to keep your hands away from your face. If you’re eating, chewing, drinking, or covering your face, it’s much harder to follow what you’re saying, so make sure your loved one can easily see your face.
Rephrase Rather Than Repeat
If your loved one is struggling to understand a sentence of phrase, don’t just repeat the same sentence over and over since the problem sounds will still be there. Rather, find a way to rephrase what you want to say to give your loved one the best chance of understanding you.
Louder Isn’t Always Better
You might think that yelling will help your loved one hear. The reality is that raising the volume can sometimes make it worse! Speaking loudly can distort the sounds, and exaggerate facial expressions or lip movements, making speech even harder to understand. Speak naturally, without over enunciating words.
Slower Isn’t Helping
Just like yelling, speaking slowly can distort sounds and make it hard for your loved one to follow conversation. Speaking really slowly stretches the words and loses the sense of what you’re saying. What you can do is add a few more pauses. Speak naturally and at a normal volume but pause at the end of sentences and phrases to give you loved one that extra half second to hear and understand what you’ve said before you rush ahead to the next thing.
Turn Off the TV
Even for those without a hearing impairment, hearing in background noise can be a struggle. Just think about the last time you were out for dinner at a crowded restaurant with friends, and someone at the other end of the table asked you a question. You yell “what?” but end up playing a game of telephone, as the question gets yelled down the table until you can finally hear it. For someone with hearing loss, background noise isn’t just an annoyance, but can make it completely impossible for them to understand what’s being said since the brain isn’t able to separate important speech sounds from distracting background sounds.
If you’re at home, minimize background noises by turning off the TV or radio before you start talking, and always pick a quiet restaurant for dinner. This will give your loved one the best chance of understanding you and communicating clearly.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
If your loved one has never had their hearing checked or does not use hearing aids to treat their hearing loss, encourage them to visit us at Worth Hearing for a hearing assessment. Treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids improves communication and relationships, and improves quality of life, both for the person struggling with hearing loss as well as their family and friends.