Do You Hear what I Hear?!

DoyouhearOften times, we forget that hearing loss has an impact on more than just the person with the hearing loss. As Mark Ross, audiologist, said, “When someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.” Family members, spouses and friends are equally affected and frequently, these people hold the crucial responsibility of getting an individual to take action against their hearing loss. A recent study revealed that more than half of first-time hearing aid users were influenced by the remarks and concerns of family members.

Often people think that hearing aids or cochlear implants are going to magically make everything better. While both can improve a person’s ability to hear communication breakdowns and misunderstandings are still likely. It takes work from both sides of the conversation to be prepared and ready to repair the message. Communication is a two-way street. If only one person shoulders the burden, this could result in poor communication, bad feelings, impatience, frustration, resentment or even guilt. If family members and the individual with hearing loss play an active role in the communication interactions, these scenarios and ill feelings can be avoided.

With the holiday season right around the corner, we may be around large groups of people, some who may have hearing loss. In situations where hearing is already difficult, here are some quick and easy tips for communicating better with individuals who have hearing loss:

  1. Get the person’s attention before you speak.
  2. Don’t shout! Speak clearly and at a moderate pace.
  3. Avoid noisy background situations.
  4. Rephrase when you are not understood.
  5. Give clues when changing the subject.
  6. Use facial expressions and gestures.
  7. Do not have objects in front of your face or mouth.
  8. Be patient, positive and empathetic!

If you are the individual with hearing loss, do your part as well by following these tips:

  1. Don’t bluff. Let others know when you are unable to follow the conversation.
  2. Be assertive and pay attention to the speaker.
  3. Provide feedback to your communication partner that you understand them.
  4. Anticipate difficult listening situations by minimizing background noise and increasing access to visual cues.
  5. Be patient and appreciative.

By Dr. Kendra Neugebauer

Audiologist at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital