When any part of the auditory system or ear is not properly working, there’s hearing loss. It’s a disability that is twice as prevalent as cancer or diabetes. It can affect anyone at any period in life, from before birth and childhood to adulthood and old age.
According to the National Health Interview Survey of the National Center for Health Statistics in 2012, about 15% of American adults with ages 18 and above indicated some trouble hearing. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that out of every 1,000 children in the United States, about 2 to 3 of them are born with hearing loss that’s detectable in one or both ears.
Hearing loss makes communication difficult not only for the person with this disability but also for the other party. This is why it’s not enough to support or help the person with hearing aid maintenance. Hearing aids will not magically restore their hearing; they only make sounds more audible or at a level that’s comfortable or accessible for the person with hearing loss.
Once you know that someone in the family has hearing loss, you need to work on having better communication as you are around the person every day. This can help in better hearing for the person and connection within the family.
In this article, we’ll help you understand more about hearing loss and provide some tips to help you communicate better with family members with hearing loss. Read on.
What You and Your Family Should Know About Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is being unable to hear when any part of the ear is not working as usual. This can be on one ear or both ears, and it can impact a person’s language, speech, and social skills negatively.
Hearing loss can be categorized into four depending on its degree or extent of damage:
- Mild: Soft sounds are difficult to hear but may hear some speech sounds.
- Moderate: May hear almost no sound when someone is talking at a normal level.
- Severe: Will hear only some loud sounds but no speech if someone is talking at a normal level.
- Profound: Will hear only very loud sounds but not any speech.
When a person has a hearing loss that’s mild to severe, it is said to be hard of hearing. As such, the person can benefit from wearing hearing aids and other assistive devices, as well as having cochlear implants or captioning. On the other hand, a person who is deaf has profound hearing loss and uses sign language to communicate.
Furthermore, hearing loss can be the same in both ears or different in each ear. It can be sudden or worsen over time. It can also remain stable or fluctuate, that is, it becomes either worse or better with time.
5 Ways to Improve Communication in the Family If Someone Has Hearing Loss
Make your mouth and face visible.
This is on top of the list as it is very much important for a person with hearing loss to see your body language and facial expressions. As they watch you, they use these visual cues and obtain additional information about the message being given to them. It also helps them see the emotions of the person talking to them. This results in better understanding and communication.
Whenever talking to a person with hearing loss, make eye contact. Avoid talking from another room. Face them and do not put your hands on your face so they will have visual access to it. Do this at the same level and under good lighting that’s not shining on the face of the hearing-impaired person. Also, ensure that you are close enough. All of these help the person in speech reading, which improves their perception.
You can also use your gestures and facial expressions to emphasize what you are saying.
Avoid background noise.
It’s difficult for a person with hearing loss to hear over excessive noise. For this reason, reducing background noises and moving away from the source of noise are recommended when talking to the person. You can turn off the television or radio if possible, or choose a quiet area to talk. Also, you can opt to improve your house by using curtains or carpets to avoid voice distortion and poor acoustics.
Don’t exaggerate when speaking.
It’s okay to speak slowly and distinctly with a person with hearing loss. You can speak normally to them, not too slow but also not too fast. What’s not okay is to shout or exaggerate your mouth movements. Shouting distorts the words and makes speech reading difficult. Your voice may be heard, but the words are difficult to understand. You can pause or slow down a little and wait so you can be understood. Instead of complex sentences, you should also use simple sentences.
Try rephrasing words rather than repeating them.
If the hearing-impaired person misunderstands you, find another way of saying it. Instead of repeating it over and over again, try using different words that mean the same. If the person did not understand what you said the first time, they may not also get it the second time.
In addition to rephrasing, you can also ask the person which words were not understood and repeat those words.
Observe their reaction.
While a person with hearing loss needs to watch your reactions for clues, you also need to observe and pay attention to them and their cues. In this way, you’ll see if they are confused or whether they understand what you are saying or not. It may also help you see if they are feeling tired or embarrassed for asking for clarifications. If they look puzzled, then it’s time to ask them tactfully if they understand you.
Hearing loss affects communication. However, this and other problems associated with hearing loss can still be improved by wearing hearing aids and improving the way you convey messages. Educating your family, as well as your friends and those around you, about the specific hearing needs your family member may have will also help. We hope that these tips have helped you make clear and effective conversations with anyone with hearing loss at home.