It can be difficult to explain or describe what experiencing hearing loss is like, even to loved ones. Struggling to hear, feeling excluded from conversations, being sensitive to sounds, and experiencing listening fatigue can be stressful and challenging. People may minimize or downplay the impact of their hearing loss which can take a toll on communication and relationships. Knowing a few things that people with hearing loss wish you knew can increase your understanding about their experience as well as ways you can provide valuable support.
- Hearing loss can be exhausting. Hearing takes a lot of work. For people without hearing loss, hearing happens seamlessly and without much work or thought. But for people with impaired hearing, their capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound is reduced. This means that they have to work harder to hear and this can be an exhausting experience. The brain exerts more energy in trying to hear and process and people with hearing loss tap into nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions to help follow a conversation. They may also use other strategies like lip reading to help identify individual words. This additional work can be tiring, especially if there is background noise and other distractions present.
- I am not ignoring you. People often feel like they are being ignored or unheard by their loved one with hearing loss. This is because the person with hearing loss may not be responding immediately or they seem to not be paying attention. But it is important to understand that they are likely trying to process what is being said and using various strategies to do so. It may take extra time and effort to engage in conversation which can be read as them being withdrawn or uninterested. They may not answer questions as immediately or mishear you so it is important to provide time and clarification when needed.
- Hearing aids take time to adjust to. Hearing aids provide significant support for millions of people with hearing loss. These devices are an essential item that allow people to navigate conversation and everyday environments with greater ease. But it is useful to know that hearing aids do not work like glasses. Glasses you put on and vision are enhanced immediately. In contrast, there is an adjustment period with hearing aids. The ears and brain are adjusting to processing sound with the help of these devices which takes time to acclimate to. Also, people will likely hear sounds they haven’t heard in quite some time and this also takes time to get used to. So it is important to be patient and mindful that a person with hearing loss has to learn to hear in this new way.
- I don’t need you to speak for me. A common mistake people make is speaking for their loved one with hearing loss. For example, if you are ordering at a restaurant and your loved one does not hear, you order for them. This can feel invalidating or insulting so it is important to avoid speaking for them. Rather, you can help grab their attention or rephrase so that they can speak for themselves.
- Specific communication strategies can help. There are several communication strategies you can practice to make conversations more accessible and smooth. This includes:
- Grabbing their attention before starting a conversation. You can do this by calling their name or tapping them on the shoulder.
- Maintain visibility throughout the conversation.
- Rephrasing rather than repeating.
- Reduce background noise as much as possible.
- Avoid multitasking so you can be fully present.
- Check-in throughout the conversation.
You can also ask if there are other specific adjustments you can make to support their
hearing needs. Practicing these strategies supports effective communication and can
make engaging in conversations much easier.
- Your support is valuable. Navigating everyday life with hearing loss can be challenging and takes time to get used to. Your understanding and patience are effective ways you can provide critical support.
It is a process to learn how to navigate communication and daily activities with hearing loss. Providing support and understanding can make a tremendous difference in your loved one’s transition into better hearing health. Contact us today to learn more.