By Jennifer Grace, Au.D
We’re not getting any younger. And our world seems to be getting noisier and moving faster, by the moment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 4 aged 65 – 74 have a disabling hearing loss. Many affected do not have hearing aids. And chances are likely that you know someone who may benefit from a little tender loving care.
Take a moment and ask yourself…what can I do to better my relationship with someone with hearing loss? All too often, someone with hearing loss will remove themselves subtlety or directly, knowingly or unknowingly.
My goal is more than improving listening ability. I want my patients to enjoy participating more fully. Some thoughtful planning can make meals and other occasions ‘hearing friendly’ for those with hearing loss. A good place to start is by making gatherings less frustrating. You can show your own ‘hearing TLC’ with these suggestions:
Location can be very important.
- For conversation, consider staging areas away from TV noise and play areas.
- For meals, sit those hard of hearing away from kitchen noise. Even at the dinner table, TV noise can be distracting.
Next, think about light levels and sight lines for those needing to ‘read lips’. Seeing facial expressions and mouths of those speaking can make all the difference.
- Try to shade glare from windows that may make it difficult to see faces.
Then, arrange for an advocate or buddy to assist someone that may not ask for hearing help themselves. You are essentially, creating a pairing!
- This allows the hearing partner to proactively and intentionally make sure conversation is being followed and shows patience if something needs to be repeated or rephrased.
- The hearing partner can be attentive and stay vigilant if your participant is quiet and may need his/her partner’s assistance to bring them back into the conversation.
Think about how you can speak most clearly. Do your best to speak slowly and at a comfortable volume without screaming, mumbling or slurring your words.
- Project your voice, but don’t shout.
- Think about rephrasing, in case your participant doesn’t hear a particular word or sound, or is challenged to decipher the conversation.
- Avoid distractions like chewing gum or putting your hands to your face during conversation.
- By keeping interruptions to a minimum, it will be easier to manage and maintain a conversation.
Also think about body language and proximity.
- Face the person you are speaking with, as it helps them to see your mouth and facial expression along with your spoken word.
- Think about seating at a round table or gathering area.
- Sit close by. Sometimes the gentle stroke of an arm or squeeze to gain attention helps, as it’s easier to remain engaged rather than sitting across the room.
Perhaps the most important tip is simply seeking them out.
- Enjoy a 1:1 quiet conversation in a private corner, a quiet room, or during a walk.
- Create a list of activities that may keep participants better connected.
Today there are more options available for hearing aids than ever before, with noise suppression and noise reduction advancements far superior to older analog devices. Many distinguish between various types and kinds of sounds. And styles range from behind or sitting in the ear, to discreetly placed within the ear canal. Our doctors of audiology are ready to expertly guide you or a loved on through any hearing amplification process.
So when you’re ready for ‘hearing TLC’, we’re all ears.