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How to Support Hearing-Impaired Loved-Ones?

a happy family eating dinner together

Upon learning that a loved one has a hearing impairment; it is normal that any of us will immediately turn our thoughts towards how we can make life easier for them. Whether the extent of the hearing loss is minor or severe, it remains the case that this is something your loved one would rather not have had to deal with. Particularly early on, it is essential to provide them with understanding and to lighten the load for them while they adjust.

Of course, we all know that emotional support is necessary at a time like this, but for many of us the question is more what we can do in a practical sense. How can we, the friends and family of a loved one with a hearing impairment, help them in a demonstrable way as they acclimatize to a new reality? Below, we go through some things you can do for your loved one; small, non-onerous modifications that will make life much easier for them going forward.

Keep background noise to a minimum

If you are trying to have a conversation with someone who is dealing with a hearing impairment, then it is essential to remember that they are at a marked disadvantage when it comes to hearing you. This disadvantage becomes all the clearer if you are in a noisy environment – if, for example, you have a TV or radio on, or if a household appliance such as a dishwasher or tumble dryer is running.

When someone close to you is struggling with their hearing, turn the TV off or pause what you’re watching, turn down the radio, if there is an appliance running and then close the door to the room where it is contained. This removes several the obstacles to your loved one’s understanding and can make a huge difference.

Say their name, and face them when talking

In everyday conversation, it’s common to just say what we are thinking without any preamble. If we are in a room with someone and have something to say to them, then it makes sense to just say it, doesn’t it? However, if that someone is hearing-impaired, then giving them a moment to adjust by calling their name can make all the difference. 

Once you have their attention, speak clearly to them face-to-face. If you mutter, or speak into empty space, there is a real chance that your loved one will have to ask you to repeat yourself. Over time, having to ask people to repeat themselves gets wearying for a person, so don’t make your loved one do that.

Avoid raising your voice

There is a difference between speaking loudly and clearly, and shouting. It may take some time to find that goldilocks zone where you speak at a high enough volume to be heard, while not too loud for comfort but please persist with finding it. It is worth the time and effort. A lot of people think they have to say everything in an exaggeratedly loud voice for a hearing-impaired relative to hear them, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

What you need to aim for is clarity. Yes, you need to speak audibly, and may need to up the volume – but if you speak too loudly you are likely to distort the sound of what you are saying, which defeats the purpose. Speak as loudly and clearly as you can while retaining your normal voice, speech patterns and you are likely to be understood.

Help them attend and manage appointments

Appointments with anyone, including a hearing instrument specialist, can be tiring experiences, as your loved one needs to maintain their focus and listen attentively for longer than they are used to. Being there for them at times like this can be hugely appreciated, as they may need someone to drive them to or from appointments, potentially someone to communicate with others on their behalf at times and someone to help them choose the right equipment.

For many people, answering questions at an appointment can be a challenge because they’ve never really looked at things from an external point of view. By being there, you can take the pressure off them by affirming answers they give and giving your input on the ones they find tricky to answer. If your loved one has a hearing impairment and might need corrective devices to help them hear more clearly, then you can help them by getting them in touch with Armand's Hearing Center in Bradenton at 941-748-9800, or in Sun City at 813-938-1148.