Helping a Family Member

What Can You Do If Someone You Care About Has Difficulty Hearing?

If someone you know suffers from hearing loss, you already know it’s a challenging time for everyone close to that person including family, friends, colleagues and coworkers.

Sometimes, the change can be so gradual or subtle that you’re not sure whether it’s actually a hearing loss. Unlike many conditions, hearing loss is often hard to detect in its early stages.

Common Signs of Hearing Loss

Some of the most common indicators of hearing loss include:

  • turning up the volume of the TV or radio
  • problems hearing the doorbell or the telephone ringing
  • difficulty hearing people calling and talking from behind or in another room
  • asking people to repeat themselves or saying “what?” frequently
  • misunderstanding or “forgetting” what has been said or agreed upon
  • often cupping hands behind the ears

How You Can Help

If you believe a family member, friend or colleague is suffering from undiagnosed hearing loss, encourage him or her to contact a family doctor or hearing care professional and request a simple test to check for a hearing problem.

In most cases, the hearing test will detect a hearing loss if one is present, as well as determine the type of loss. Based on the hearing test, the hearing professional can recommend the use of a hearing device or other treatment.

Communication Strategies

The following steps can make communicating easier when you’re interacting with those who have difficulty hearing or who are still adjusting to a new hearing device.

  • Make it easy to read your lips
  • Be sure your friend or colleague has your full attention before you begin to speak.
  • Face the person with whom you’re talking. Don’t try to converse from a different room or with your back turned.
  • Stand in well-lit areas to make reading your lips and facial expressions easier.
  • Avoid activities that make lip-reading difficult like chewing, smoking, reading the newspaper or leaning your cheek on your hand while talking.

Speak at a Natural Pace and Level

Most hearing instruments are set to amplify a normal level of speech, so if you shout it may be too loud for the listener. Try not to talk too quickly. Speak naturally, but try to pronounce your words more clearly. This will naturally slow your speech, so be careful not to overdo it. If others are having trouble understanding you, try rephrasing your sentence rather than just repeating yourself. Some words are easier than others to hear or lip-read.

Try to Reduce Background Noise

For someone who has trouble hearing, the most difficult listening environment is one that contains background noise. Try to eliminate background noise when holding a conversation. Turn off the television and close any open windows to reduce outside interference.

Move closer to your listener so your voice is louder than the background noise. Your face and lips will also be easier to read.
Find somewhere quieter to talk. You’ll simplify the situation and protect your own hearing in the process.