If you have a loved one with hearing loss, you have probably experienced firsthand how difficult communication can be. It may not happen every time, but there may be times when your friend or family member has great difficulty understanding what you are saying.
In these cases, it can be easy to simply speak louder or slower. However, that may not be enough. To help you better communicate with those with hearing loss, here are a few simple tips you can start using every day:
Many people with hearing loss have learned what is called “speechreading” (formerly called lip reading). This means they are able to use the movement of the mouth, as well as facial expressions, to help them better understand spoken language.
To make it easier for your loved one to speech read, make sure you do not put your hand or any objects near your mouth that could cover your mouth and make it more difficult for the other person to see your expressions. Also, do not try to exaggerate your pronunciation of a word if they are having difficulty understanding. Exaggerating your pronunciation changes the way your mouth moves to form the word, which will only make speechreading more difficult.
For successful speechreading, it is also important to be in a well-lit area. And obviously, if the person cannot see you, they will not be able to speech read – so do not speak to them from a different room.
If your loved one does not understand what you say the first time, they may ask you to say it again. While your initial reaction is probably to repeat exactly the same thing you just said, it is likely more helpful to repeat it using different words.
This is because a certain word may be particularly difficult for the person to hear or understand. By using different words, you give them another chance to understand the meaning of what you are saying.
If you try repeating yourself using different words and they still do not understand – or if you are having trouble thinking of a way to rephrase what you are saying – do not give up and say, “Never mind.” This is very discouraging to the person with hearing loss, and they may feel left out because they want to know what you have to say. Instead, if the situation has become difficult and you would like to continue the conversation later, simply say, “I’ll tell you later.” And be sure that you really do tell them later!
If you have normal hearing, you are probably adept at filtering out background noise when others are speaking. This allows you to “tune out” sounds that you do not need to hear and instead focus on the conversation.
However, this is very difficult for people with hearing loss. They often have difficulty filtering out background sounds, which can cause problems when trying to hold a conversation.
To make it easier for your loved one, try to limit background noise whenever possible. If you’re at home, turn off the TV or radio while talking. Close the door if noise is coming from another room. Do not try to talk while you wash the dishes, use an appliance, or do any other noisy tasks.
When going out, try to find quiet places with minimal background noise. At restaurants, ask to be seated away from the kitchen or the bar, which are more likely to be noisy areas. You can also look at online reviews to find restaurants and venues that are likely to be quieter.
With these easy tips, you will be able to better communicate with those with hearing loss. If you would like more advice on communicating with your loved one who has hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our audiology office today. We are happy to help!