woman wears hearing aid and has coffee with a friend

Communicating with Your Loved Ones Who Have Hearing Loss

Kevin Garnett, B.S. Communication, Hearing Loss

Kevin Garnett, B.S.

With nearly 1 in 5 people having some degree of hearing loss, you may have a loved one with impaired hearing. Hearing loss can make it tough to engage in conversations. It is a medical condition that reduces one’s ability to hear and process speech as well as sound. Hearing aids, the most common treatment, provide ample support but conversations can still take some work. There are specific ways that you can provide support when communicating with your loved one who has hearing loss. A few strategies you can practice to facilitate effective communication include: 

  • Learn more about hearing loss. It may be useful for you to learn more about hearing loss so that you understand more of what your loved one is experiencing. Learning about the symptoms and impact hearing loss can have on communication can better help you provide effective support. Increasing your understanding also enables you to have more patience which is helpful when exploring communication strategies. This is especially useful because people can often get frustrated by their loved one with hearing loss. Because conversations aren’t as smooth (especially initially), this can contribute to unpleasant interactions. So learning more about how hearing loss is experienced can help you navigate more effectively. 
  • Reduce background noise. A useful way to make hearing easier is by reducing background noise. Background noise can make it harder for anyone to hear, especially people with hearing loss. It provides competing noise that the brain also has to process and filter through. This requires extra energy for the brain which is already expending more resources in trying to hear. So reducing background noise as much as possible can be really helpful. You can do this by powering off any music or TV that may be playing in the background (or maintaining low volume settings), putting phones on silent or vibrate, choosing environments with less background noise, avoiding using noisy kitchen appliances during conversations etc.  
  • Avoid multitasking. Another useful strategy is to avoid multitasking. Though it is common to do things like run errands, text, clean, cook etc. while having conversations; this can make it harder to hear. Multitasking can produce additional noise and it can also prevent people from being fully present. These distractions can take away from conversations and also makes it harder for you to be fully present and engaged. 
  • Be intentional about environmental factors. There are various environmental factors that are important to think about and plan for. This includes: 
  • Making sure the spaces you are in are well lit. 
  • If you are in group settings, make sure that everyone is as visible as possible. For example, if you are sitting at a dinner table, make sure your loved one with hearing loss is sitting in the middle where they can see most people. 
  • Avoiding noisy restaurants, especially during peak hours. 

Being intentional about these environmental factors can really help facilitate easeful communication and comfortability. 

  • Use effective communication strategies. It is also important to ask your loved one how to best support their hearing needs. They likely know of various communication strategies you can use examples include: 
  • Grabbing their attention before starting a conversation. This gives them time to be prepared rather than being caught off guard. You can do this by calling their name or tapping them on the shoulder. 
  • Maintaining visibility so that they have access to lip reading as well as nonverbal cues like body language. 
  • Speaking in a natural tone, pausing between sentences. 
  • Rephrasing rather than repeating if they haven’t heard something you said. 
  • Pay attention to their cues, if it looks like they didn’t hear something, ask if you can clarify. 
  • In group settings, make sure people avoid talking over one another. 

Using these strategies support hearing and communication tremendously. By practicing 

These tips, you are actively creating a space that is more comfortable and inviting. 

Your support is invaluable and can make a significant difference. Practicing these strategies is a great way to create a more accessible environment where your loved one’s hearing needs are met. This can strengthen communication and improve your relationship. Contact us today to learn more about the resources that are available to aid you in this process!