Hearing loss is something that many people experience at some stage of their lives. Usually, hearing loss happens gradually, and often the person doesn’t become aware of the loss before their friends and families begin to notice. It can be difficult for friends and family of people experiencing hearing loss to know how to help and encourage their loved one, and how to limit the communication breakdown that will inevitably occur with hearing loss. This can cause tension and stress for everyone involved, and often makes the person with hearing loss feel isolated and frustrated. These tips and tricks will give some guidance on how to provide support for the person with hearing loss.
1) Encourage them to seek help, or do it with them
It takes the average person with hearing loss 7 years of awareness of a problem before they are ready to take action. Many people struggle to find the confidence to book an appointment for a hearing test, or worry that they will be ‘forced’ to wear a hearing aid just because they came for one consultation. In some cases, hearing loss can be reversed through surgery or medical intervention, and yes, some people will need hearing aids- but all of these things begin with a hearing assessment. Don’t force your loved one to come in, but rather encourage them to seek the help themselves. Some people are more likely to go for a test if someone that they love is also going, so suggest booking a consultation for both of you to be tested
2) Listen to them and understand their perspective
Many people who experience hearing loss go through stages of acceptance similar to those of grief. Often people who are still in the denial stage are not ready to accept help, and many people feel lost, isolated and afraid. Be there for your loved one by asking them about their experiences with their hearing and hearing loss- often when people are able to speak about something with a person they trust, they gain the confidence to seek help.
3) Work on your Communication Skills
When speaking to a person with hearing loss, it’s helpful to follow a few simple rules to reduce communication breakdown. Doing these things can help to protect your friend from the feeling of isolation and frustration that often occur with hearing loss. Try the following strategies:
· Get the person’s attention before you start to talk to them
· Look at the person when speaking, and maintain eye contact.
· Avoid covering your mouth or eating while speaking
· Speak in your normal voice, but a little slower. Don’t try to shout or over enunciate words
· Rephrase your sentence if the person doesn’t hear you the first time, rather than repeating over and over
· Be aware of background noise and try to move away from music or noise sources when speaking
· Remember that light is a friend to the person with hearing loss, so try to avoid speaking in a darkened area
Have you had experience with friends or family members with hearing loss? Was there a special thing that a family member did for you that made you feel supported and cared for when coming to terms with your own hearing loss? Share your stories with us, or ask any questions below- or contact us for more information.