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When your family member has a hearing loss, and even the smallest of communications becomes a difficult task, it is normal to feel frustrated, ignored, and even resentful. Your hard of hearing loved one is also feeling the stress of this strained communication, with the added difficulty of having to work extra hard to understand you. It is no doubt a challenging situation for everyone involved, but with a little extra effort, family life–and yes, conversations–can still be enjoyable. Here are ten helpful tips to keep in mind.
1. Before talking, get the listener’s attention.
When asked what simple technique makes listening easier for them, many hard of hearing people say that a person getting their attention before speaking helps a great deal. Gently touch your family member’s shoulder to let them know you want to speak to them, especially when they are occupied with a task. Another option is saying their name, and waiting for them to face you before speaking. This will allow them to focus their attention on listening, look at your lips, and reduce background noise if necessary. As a result of this moment to prepare, the hard of hearing listener will be less stressed overall, and their family member will feel they are being heard, rather than ignored.
2. Try not to take communication challenges too personally.
Even if you or your loved one has a hearing aid, difficulties and misunderstandings in conversation will still arise. The important thing is to not become angry or resentful when this happens. Instead, take a deep breath and either try to fix the misunderstanding, or move on. Remember that your relationship with your family member is what matters.
3. Say it again clearer, not louder.
If your hard of hearing family member didn’t catch something the first time and needs you to repeat it, you may instinctively want to raise the volume of your voice. In fact, what helps the most is repeating the phrase more clearly, taking care to enunciate each syllable, and making sure not to mumble.
4. Pauses help more than slow speech.
Another common way that family members try to aid understanding is to slow their speech down and lengthen out each word. But this is actually not as effective as slowing down speech by putting a slightly longer pause between each word. Say the words clearly and at a normal speed, but rather than running your words together, put a little space between them.
5. In noisy situations, closer is better.
When speaking to your hard of hearing family member in a noisy public area, such as a restaurant or party, remember that the added background noise can make listening quite a challenge for them. Hearing aids often amplify background noise as well, so your conversation partner will need you to make a little extra effort. Make sure you are facing them, in a well-lit area so they can see clearly see you, and your expressions and gestures. You may also need to sit a little more closely so that they can focus on your voice.
6. Don’t give one-word answers.
It’s natural to shorten language and give one-word answers when speaking. But an answer like “yes”, “sure” or “no” can be easily misunderstood by someone with hearing loss, especially in a situation where there is background noise. Lengthening your answers with a few extra words— “Yes, I did” “Sure, no problem” “No, he isn’t” — can greatly help your listener understand what is being communicated. Also: avoid contractions when possible. “Cannot” is much easier to distinguish than “can’t”.
7. Try rephrasing the sentence.
If your loved one lets you know that they didn’t hear or understand you, you might try rephrasing the sentence rather than saying the exact same thing again. Stating something differently can help to clarify meaning by allowing them to pick up different keywords, for example “Did you like the film?” or “What did you think of the movie?”
8. Seek out professional help if necessary.
If family conflict due to communication difficulties is becoming too much to handle, getting neutral advice and guidance from a third-party can help to smooth things out. Most hearing care specialists have expertise in helping families with communication strategies, and would be happy to help.
9. Wear your hearing aids consistently.
If you have a hearing loss, your family members are probably working extra hard to communicate with you. The best way to show your appreciation is to wear your hearing aids consistently–this shows them that you are committed to keeping communications lines open. If you’re a family member of someone with hearing loss who is struggling with hearing aids, make sure to show your support and encouragement every time they wear them.
10. Become informed about you or your loved one’s hearing loss
If you or your loved one has a hearing loss that is causing difficulties within the family, the first step is to find out what’s going on. A hearing exam with a professional, licensed hearing care specialist at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions is the first step, and it’s an important one. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids can help dramatically in restoring communication, and rebuilding family relationships. Contact us today for more information.