18 Ways to Help a Loved One with Hearing Loss

There’s no way to shy around it – living with hearing loss can be very difficult at times. It can create some particularly tricky scenarios of trying to guess at what’s being said, or using context clues to hypothesize what the beginning part of the sentence was because you missed it the first time and caught the last part. You don’t want to keep making others repeat themselves, at the same time others feel like they’re not being heard or are ignored.

Those that don’t know you have trouble hearing tend to shrug off what they said with a, “never mind” rather than repeat what they said back to you. This can create a unique communication issue within relationships, work environments, family dynamics. It can even make more common day-to-day interactions, like going to the grocery store or bank, much more of a task.

A loss of hearing is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about, it’s completely natural and extremely common.  Hearing loss will most likely affect us all at some point in our lifetime to a varying degree. It’s important to be open about it with one another on the front end. This will help improve communication with minimal interruption or need for repetition. If both parties are on the same page about each others’ hearing needs, it makes for better conversation all around.

We all want to make our family and friends feel comfortable and stress-free. Here are 18 tips that will help you be a mindful participant in a conversation with a friend of loved one with hearing loss.

1. Face the person directly when talking

Face-to-face conversation makes it very clear who you’re talking to. Calling something out from another room can make it harder to hear. The same goes if you’re looking down or off in other directions when talking in a more crowded or loud setting. For individuals with a profound hearing loss, the ability to use lip movement for added context is warmly welcomed.

2. Inform them if they miss something.

If you say something and get the feeling that it wasn’t heard correctly the first time. Signs of this usually come in the form of facial expressions or prolonged answer while what was heard, or not heard, is being processed. Don’t be quick to assume, but it’s always okay to make sure someone didn’t miss a part of the conversation rather than skipping over it. Give a little notice if the conversation changes if you think they may have missed the switch. Better a friendly reminder than shrugging it off or ending the conversation.

3. Don’t start talking from another room.

Avoid trying to initiate a conversation from another room or hallway. It’s common have trouble locating and localizing the direction a sound is coming from. It can also make for added difficulty if the hard of hearing individual is not aware you’re speaking to them at first.

4. Rephrase what you said if needed.

If a specific word or phrase is not being heard correctly, rather than raise your voice or give up, try rewording the original statement. Being asked to repeat something multiple times is much less pleasant for the person doing the asking then the person being asked. This all comes back to making sure both parties are aware of the hearing loss in the first place.

5. Don’t shout.

Shouting actually distorts the words and can also be perceived as rude or angry by most. Rather than yelling, try rephrasing your sentence to add more context or taking a brief pause to make sure the person is able to see your face. Annunciation is always appreciated, but don’t get frustrated and snap on someone that can’t hear clearly.

6. Say the person’s name before beginning a conversation.

Getting someone’s attention before speaking to them is always important, but even more so for those of us with hearing loss. Engage them in the conversation by using their first name. Never assume someone can hear what you told them, or that they are paying attention before looking at you. Once you’ve gotten their attention, make sure to maintain face-to-face conversation if possible.

7. Speak naturally.

Speaking too slowly may make some individuals feel like their being patronized and lead to an uncomfortable interaction. Comparatively, speaking too fast can lead to a potential miscommunication. It’s best just to speak as you would, while keeping in mind the previous tips as well. Speaking clearly is different from spea-king sl-ow-ly.

8. Reduce the background noise.

In public settings, there is often background noises competing with the sound of your voice. Of course, this all depends on where you live. The countryside surely makes for an easier listening environment than a construction-filled city. If the place you’re at is just too loud, you may want to suggest moving to another setting. In such cases, it is even more important to speak to the person face-to-face.

loved one with hearing loss

9. Don’t get frustrated.

This circles back to the rule about not shouting. Maintain a positive demeanor and recognize that some conversation require a more active listening role. Don’t get upset if you’ve been asked to repeat something a few times, instead respond by asking how you can improve their ability to hear (i.e. turning down music, speaking closer together, etc.)

10. Think of the ways you communicate non-verbally

Communicate your point better using non-verbal communication. We can express the emotion of the message with non-verbal elements of conversation (facial expressions, gestures, and posture) often even more than the words themselves. Consider the ways your face and body help create the context of a story or an anecdote you’re telling.

11. Be understanding.

It may seem like we’re re-emphasizing this one a bit here, but that’s only because it’s important. Have patience and avoid getting upset when someone asks you to repeat something or asks, “What was that?”

12. Don’t do all the talking.

Hearing loss can be draining. A person with hearing loss has to work harder to understand what you’re saying and you would be surprised at the mental exertion involved. If a conversation is lasting a long time, take a break. If you find that you’ve been rambling on for a while, stop and let the other person talk for a bit.

13. Consider other methods of communication.

Texting and emailing have grown to be extremely helpful for families and businesses to ensure that everyone is part of the conversation. Visual communication is key. If someone in your family has a hearing loss, group chats can work wonders to create a more inclusive bond.

14. Take an online hearing test.

If you have a friend or partner that is refusing to confront their hearing loss or seek treatment, try to be the motivator. Suggest taking an online hearing test together. Ease into the conversation with something anyone can do from their laptop or phone.

15. Understand that hearing aid stigma is real.

It’s not always easy for someone to look past the visual element of hearing aids. While many hearing aid users take great pride in them, others are less enthused about needing a little extra help. A lack of wanting to look older or “age” oneself can create a denial that serves as defense mechanisms that prevent your loved one from seeking professional treatment.

16. Look up hearing loss support groups in your community, or online.

Both on Facebook and in local communities, there are groups that help others learn to accept and live with their hearing loss. If your friend or loved one is experiencing feelings of social isolation or depression related to hearing loss, these groups can be a helpful outlet. If you recognize your friend or loved one shutting themselves off from the world more often, make sure they know they are not alone and have people who can share what they’re going through.

17. Have an honest talk about their hearing loss.

A nudge in the right direction shows them that you care. If hearing loss is creating a communication issue within relationship, don’t let it passively grow into larger problem before addressing it. Many partners of hard of hearing individuals avoid potential confrontation and continue to let their loved ones avoid treatment. An untreated hearing loss that continues to worsen is guaranteed to create more significant health issues down the line.

18.Suggest a visit to the Audiologist, and have your hearing tested too.

Be a motivating force in the life of a friend or loved on with untreated hearing loss. Recommend a visit to your local hearing center and/or Audiologist for a routine hearing test. Most of the time, standard hearing test are offered at little to no cost. Audiologists agree that having a second person with you during the hearing screening is very beneficial. The other person becomes a valuable point of reference to reduce potential nerves and help serve as anchor.

A loved one isn’t just your significant other, it can also include your parents, grandparents, or even just a friend you’re looking out for. If there’s someone in your life that is having trouble with their hearing, encourage them to get a professional opinion from a specialist. At the very least, you can shower your loved one with praise, positive affirmations, and TLC.

You can help your loved one actively take steps to improve their hearing that will make a lasting difference in their overall quality of life. One of the first ways would be recommending the use of hearing aids. Modern technology has come a long way in helping others take back their hearing and is only getting better.

Scheduling a visit to a hearing clinic is the first step. Make the effort together. Your local audiologist or hearing aid professional is equipped to handle and explain the objections and hesitations your loved one may have.