Approximately 48 million Americans have some form of hearing loss and by age 65, one in three people has difficulty hearing. Untreated hearing loss can negatively affect a person’s physical and emotional health as well as their ability to socialize, do well in school and at work, and enjoy their leisure time.
May is National Better Speech and Hearing Month and a time to recognize the effect that hearing loss and speech disorders can have on individual health and well-being.
To spread awareness about communication disorders, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) joins the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) each May in observing this special month. These organizations, along with many others, put all of their efforts into educating the public about signs of hearing loss and speech disorders, treatments, communication strategies, and current research that can make people’s lives better. This year’s Better Hearing and Speech Month theme is “Communication for All.” Check out ASHA’s website here for an abundance of Better Speech and Hearing Month resources.
Communication is what keeps families strong, and in honor of Better Speech and Hearing Month, here are five strategies to help you avoid misunderstandings and improve communication with your hard of hearing loved ones.
1. Talk to your loved one about hearing aids
If your spouse, parent, or another member of your family struggles to communicate on a daily basis as a result of their hearing loss, one of best ways to help them is to talk about the importance of giving hearing aids a try. Hearing aids have been shown to improve quality of life in myriad ways, from protecting brain health to boosting confidence and overall happiness. If your loved one is scared or hesitant, offer to go with them to their hearing evaluation.
If you are wondering how to support your family member who has just started wearing hearing aids, you could encourage them to wear them consistently each day, starting with just a few hours and building up from there. It can take time to adjust to hearing aids at first, so be patient with them–and remind them to be patient with themselves. Most importantly, let them know you are proud of them for taking this step to better their hearing and communication skills.
2. Before speaking, get your listener’s attention
Even with hearing aids, it can sometimes be hard for people with hearing loss to understand speech when they aren’t facing the speaker and able to see their lips. Visual signs are key for those with more substantial hearing loss. An easy method you can use when communicating with your hard of hearing loved one is to get their attention before speaking to them, by simply touching them on the shoulder. Whenever possible, be face to face with your listener–this means avoiding talking to them from another room.
3. Try not take misunderstandings personally
It’s understandable that you might get frustrated or even hurt when you feel you aren’t being heard or understood. When this happens, take a step back and a big, deep breath. Allow your emotions to reset and remember that your loved one is also struggling with their hearing loss and isn’t ignoring or misunderstanding you on purpose. When you are feeling calmer, decide if you want to try another way to fix the misunderstanding, or simply move on in the conversation. This more relaxed, empathetic outlook will help to reduce tension, both for you and your conversation partner.
4. Speak clearer, not slower
Unless you are someone who talks at the speed of light, you probably don’t need to slow down your speech too much. Using a natural, relaxed rhythm when you talk will actually help your listener understand you. But it is crucial that you speak clearly. Avoid mumbling words, make the extra effort to speak as precisely as possible, and your conversation partner will thank you. Using gestures and being expressive with your face will also help them to decipher your speech. And if you are misunderstood, try rephrasing rather than repeating your last sentence.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask a professional if your family needs help
If you and your loved ones are having a hard time coping with communication difficulties as a result of a family member’s hearing loss, it may be time to get some professional advice. A counselor can help your family to work through any conflicts and suggest strategies that will bring more understanding and calm to the household. Many hearing care specialists have expertise in helping families communicate and would gladly offer their support.
Our team at Custom Hearing Solutions is here to support you and your loved ones through your journey to better hearing health. Contact us today for more information.