Communicating with Someone who has Hearing Loss
It’s a common thing among older people; hearing deteriorates. Grandkids will joke that Grandma or Grandpa “can’t hear a word” and may try to play tricks on them. That’s all in good fun but hearing loss can be extraordinarily frustrating for the sufferer. We take for granted the simple act of communication, until it is compromised.
Of course, there are many devices on the market to assist hearing, making sound louder, reducing background noise, and seniors should be reminded that there is no shame whatsoever in using one. Ronald Reagan famously popularized hearing aids when it became public that he used one.
However, it is equally important to ensure that certain communication techniques be practiced with a senior suffering from hearing loss. Loved ones want to make sure that the senior can still communicate, and participate, in daily life.
Here are some tips to make life easier for a senior coping with hearing loss.
- Getting the listener’s attention before speaking is a must.
- Eliminate as much background noise as possible. Make sure that the television and radio are off. That will make it easier for a senior with hearing loss to discern the words being spoken to them.
- If going to a restaurant with the senior, try to find a table away from the most crowded areas, and the same goes for any social gathering. Sitting in the midst of a party with all the noise is not conducive to a conversation with someone suffering from hearing loss.
Only one person should speak at a time. Do not speak over each other. Face the senior straight on, and speak clearly, at an average speed. Try not to cover the mouth, eat while speaking, or chew gum. Doing any of these things can disrupt a senior’s ability to understand what is being said. Even if a senior does not have any specific training in lip reading, seeing a person’s mouth in a clear light, and seeing their body language, can go a long way to telling the senior what is being said, or at least the attitude and feeling of the situation.
It’s okay to speak more loudly than normal, but try not to shout. Accommodating hearing loss while speaking is like being in a stage play; clearly enunciating words and projecting the voice is the name of the game. Seniors want to hear what is being said, they want to participate. It’s our job to make sure they can.