Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

August 20, 2020

Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew
 
Dr. Darcy Benson

Hearing loss is an increasingly common health condition that millions of people navigate on a daily basis. Though nearly 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss, there are numerous misconceptions about the condition. This perpetuates the stigma associated with impaired hearing which prevents people from learning more about it. 

Because hearing loss is not a visible health issue, there are people you may know or interact with that experience it without you being necessarily aware.  Hearing loss can significantly strain communication, making conversations challenging. 

There are numerous useful pieces of information that people with hearing loss wish you knew which can help facilitate more effective communication.  

 

Hearing takes work 

Hearing loss demands more energy to hear and follow conversations. People with hearing loss have difficulty absorbing and processing sound as easily as people without hearing loss. This results in expending more energy and using more brain power to hear as much as possible. People with hearing loss may also be using other communication cues (reading mouths, nonverbal communication, facial expressions etc.) to follow the conversation. This additional effort can often be exhausting and leave people feeling drained.  

 

Louder isn’t the best strategy

One common misconception about hearing loss is that people can simply speak louder (even shout) so that others can hear “better”. Increasing volume can actually further distort the sound and make it even harder to understand. So, talking loudly does not automatically mean that the speech is clearer! 

 

Do not assume they’re not listening

It can appear that someone with hearing loss seems distant or distracted during a conversation. They may not pick up on or react to things said in whispers, discreet jokes, or an “excuse me,” but this does not mean that they are not listening. In fact, they are overworking themselves in trying to hear, reading both verbal and nonverbal communication to fully grasp what is being said. 

 

Hearing aids take time

Hearing aids do not work in the same way that glasses do. Glasses immediately enhance vision as soon as they are worn. Hearing aids however, take time to adjust to. They are complex pieces of technology that need to be properly programmed to meet one’s hearing needs in the various environments they navigate. Establishing comfortability and the best settings takes time and practice. Additionally, the brain needs to get used to processing sound with the help of this device. 

 

Stay engaged 

Having a conversation with someone navigating hearing loss can be difficult at first. It requires more attentiveness and patience to ensure that what you are communicating is being received. This can cause conversations to be slower or for you to have to repeat things you’ve said. It is important to not give up and stay engaged in the conversation. With time and by implementing useful strategies, communication can flow smoothly. 

 

Tips for Effective Communication

Conversations require all people involved to engage in ways that enhance communication. There are helpful tips that you can practice to facilitate effective communication including the following: 

  • Rather than repeating exactly what you’ve said, try rephrasing. There are specific types of sound that may be harder for some to process so using different words can be helpful. 
  • Do what you can to reduce background noise. Environments with louder noise can make it more challenging to hear. When applicable, turn down any music, television, refrain from speaking over appliances etc. 
  • Before speaking, make sure to grab the person’s attention so that they are prepared for the conversation. 
  • Avoid doing things that could distract from the conversation: eating, drinking, texting etc. This allows people to read body language which helps communication. 
  • Avoid speaking for the person. You may find yourself wanting to order for them or intervene if you see them struggling but it is important to remember that they can express their own needs and opinions. Rather, you can ask if anything can be clarified. 

Being aware of a person’s hearing needs and ways that you can best meet those needs is an incredibly useful way to be helpful and supportive. This creates the conditions for seamless conversation that helps relationships thrive!