How to help a loved one with hearing loss

Hearing loss can be debilitating – you can lose the ability to communicate with friends and family, find it harder to access certain services, and feel your self-confidence fall drastically. It’s important to let your loved one with hearing loss know that they are supported, and that you are actively working to make their environment a safe space for communication and assistance, no matter how long it may take. Here are a few top tips to help out the loved one in your life who might be suffering from hearing difficulties:

1.       Face the person directly

If you are aiming to communicate with someone who has a hearing impairment, make sure you position yourself in good lighting, and stay on the same level, directly facing the person. It’s best to have the light on your face if you are speaking, so that the listener can easily see you. Don’t talk from another room, or facing away from the listener, as it will make it harder to distinguish the words you are saying.

2.       Speak slowly and distinctly, but not unnaturally.

Avoid shouting or exaggerating your words too much, as it distorts the sound of speech, and alters the mouth shape, making it harder for the listener to read your words. It’s a good idea to say the listener’s name before beginning the conversation, as it gives them a chance to focus their attention, and receive the communication entirely. Keep sentences simple and articulate, and avoid talking too fast – consistently make sure the listener has understood what you are saying before continuing.

3.       Keep your hands away from your face.

Just like the first two points, keeping your mouth unobstructed and in view of the listener is a helpful way to ensure successful communication. Holding your hands in front of your mouth, or eating whilst talking, makes it a lot harder for a listener with hearing impairments to read your mouth shapes, and may also distort the sounds of words – making you harder to understand.

4.       If the listener has a better ear, remember which on it is

It’s not only largely helpful to remember your loved one’s ‘bad ear’, it’s also a sign that you have listened to them, and taken into account their preferences. Remembering small but important information about the listener makes them feel noticed and supported, and will also help future communication.

5.       Reduce loud sounds

Reducing loud sounds in the environment of a loved one with hearing loss is a good way to make sure that they can focus entirely on the conversation, and not be distracted or overwhelmed by other noises. People with hearing loss (especially those with Auditory Processing Disorders) may need you to repeat words or phrases if in a loud environment, like a restaurant. Try to limit noises from outside of the conversation, and keep your voice clear.

6.       Repeat important information, or write it down

If providing important information, like phone numbers or addresses, make sure that the listener has received the information correctly, by getting them to repeat it back to you. If they are unsure that they might hear the information incorrectly, be ready to write it down to make sure nothing is wrong.

7.       Be patient and attentive

Take turns when speaking, and avoid interrupting other speakers. It’s difficult to differentiate words and noises coming from several people when you’re suffering from hearing difficulties, so, if in a group setting, it’s helpful for the other people in the conversation to take turns speaking, so as not to overwhelm the listener. Pay attention to the listener with hearing impairment and make sure  they are comfortable in the environment, and that they are keeping up with the conversation – communication is key!

Most importantly, make sure that your loved one knows that you are there to listen to them, and that they are not impeding on your daily life – being supported and loved is the number one way to support anyone with hearing difficulties.

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