Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the person experiencing it – family, friends, and other loved ones also need to adjust when someone in their life has reduced hearing. If you are supporting a loved one with hearing loss, know that you are not alone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 466 million people around the world have disabling hearing loss.
The good news is that, with the right resources, you can be a part of an essential support network for your loved one with hearing loss, helping them live a full and enjoyable life. If you’re wondering how to help someone with hearing loss, how to communicate with someone with hearing loss or what you can do to support them on their journey, you’re in the right place.
Hearing loss can be gradual, and it’s not always easy to recognise the symptoms. If you notice a loved one with any of the below signs, it may be time to talk to them about getting their hearing checked.
Common signs of hearing loss include:
From making a few adjustments to your communication style to offering to help them get a hearing test or go with them for support, there are plenty of ways you can help support a loved one who’s experiencing hearing loss.
Getting a hearing test is the first step towards managing hearing loss. A hearing test can determine the severity of hearing loss and help identify any potential underlying contributing conditions. Hearing loss due to ageing is relatively common, but there are several other potential causes of hearing loss, and a hearing test can determine this, too – which, in turn, helps direct the best treatment or management options.
Hearing tests can be done by an audiologist (a healthcare professional trained in diagnosing and treating hearing loss). A standard hearing test often involves wearing headphones and listening to a series of tones and sounds at different volumes and frequencies. The results are then plotted on an audiogram, which shows the type and degree of hearing loss.
If you suspect that a loved one may have a hearing loss, but they are hesitant to get a hearing test, there are a few things you can do to encourage them to take action. First, try to have an open and honest conversation about your concerns for them. Explain that hearing loss is a common issue and that getting a hearing test is an important step in maintaining not only good hearing health but also ongoing general health and wellbeing.
You can also offer to help them find a reputable hearing centre and research their services and prices, and even go with your loved one to their appointment and provide support throughout the process.
Explain the benefits of getting a hearing test, such as improved communication, quality of life, and safety, reducing social isolation, and preventing further hearing loss. Additionally, it may be helpful to provide information on the potential consequences of untreated hearing loss, such as social isolation, depression, cognitive decline and even dementia.
Above all, be patient and approach the subject with empathy and understanding. Let them know that you care about their wellbeing and that you want to help if they are open to it. If they are still resistant, avoid putting on pressure – instead, give them some time to consider their options and suggest revisiting the conversation at a later time.
If hearing loss is diagnosed, there are many different options for management. One of the most common solutions is the use of hearing aids. Hearing aids are small electronic devices that amplify sound and improve speech comprehension for those with hearing loss.
There are many different types of hearing aids available, ranging from traditional behind-the-ear models to nearly invisible in-the-ear models. Your audiologist can help you determine which type of hearing aid is best for your specific needs and lifestyle.
In addition to hearing aids, there are many other listening devices available that can help those with hearing loss communicate more effectively. For example, personal FM systems can be used in classrooms or large group settings to amplify sound directly into the user’s ears. Captioning phones and televisions can also be helpful for those with hearing loss.
Unsure how to communicate with someone with hearing loss? The most important thing is to be patient. To make the conversation more effective, start by making sure you have the person’s attention before you begin speaking and that they are looking at you. You can wave your hand or tap them gently on the shoulder to get their attention or simply call their name first, to get their attention before delivering your message can be helpful.
Speak clearly and at a moderate pace but avoid shouting or exaggerating your words as it can distort your speech. Use simple and concise sentences and avoid using jargon or technical terms.
Face the person directly so they can see your facial expressions and read your lips. Avoid speaking from behind or covering your mouth, and maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. Avoid speaking from another room or from behind the person, as this can make it more difficult for them to understand what you’re saying.
Try to reduce any background noise by turning off any music or the TV. This will reduce distractions and help the person focus on your conversation and if they are still having difficulty understanding what you’ve said, repeat or rephrase.
If possible, it can also be helpful to use visual aids, such as a whiteboard or pictures, to supplement your speech. This can help someone with severe hearing loss understand the context of the conversation and fill in any gaps in their hearing.
Most importantly, be patient and understanding, and don't get angry if the person asks you to repeat something several times. Hearing loss can be frustrating and stressful, and it's important to be patient and supportive.
Hearing loss is a common issue that can have significant impacts on a person’s quality of life. However, with early detection and treatment, many of these negative impacts can be avoided. Find your local Bay Audiology clinic and book a hearing test today.