Do’s & Don’ts for Accommodating People with Hearing Loss

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

When it comes to hearing loss, we know that the entire family can feel the ripple effects of the condition. Not only does an individual with hearing loss tend to feel frustration or disappointment, loved ones also feel the effects on their relationships and ability to communicate. If you have identified the possibility of hearing loss for someone in your family, there are steps you can take to accommodate their needs in the short term. However, some of these short-term remedies can mask the broader needs in the long-term. Let’s consider some basic do’s and don’ts for accommodating people with hearing loss, keeping in mind the long-term effects of different accommodation styles.

1. Do Relate with Understanding and Compassion

The experience of hearing loss can often be frustrating and challenging, making an otherwise simple interaction into a complicated struggle for information. If your loved one is demonstrating signs of hearing loss, the first step is to compassionately try to understand what it might be like to walk a day in their shoes. These everyday difficulties, frustrations, and the exhaustion of struggling to parse conversations from surrounding noise can take a toll on physical, mental, and emotional well being.

2. Don’t Expect Improvement

We are tempted to hope for the best when it comes to physical conditions, but the most common form of hearing loss will not improve on its own. You might even think in the back of your mind that your loved one will get used to living with hearing loss, but the likelihood is that the condition will grow with time.

3. Do Make Reasonable Accommodations

Although hearing loss does not tend to improve on its own, there are simple things you can do to make life easier for your family member. Looking directly at the person when you talk can make an incredible difference. We use our senses in concert, and seeing your expression and speech can help with understanding.

4. Don’t Overdo It

Often we are tempted to raise the volume of our voices and to enunciate words clearly for a person with hearing loss, but sometimes we inadvertently take on a condescending tone in the process of accommodation. Although your loved one might have developed hearing loss, that condition is in no way associated with mental ability. You don’t need to talk down to your family member or to slow your speech unreasonably. These attempts can alienate a person with hearing loss, making them feel isolated by their condition.

5. Do Encourage Long-Term Solutions

Although you can take steps to accommodate those with hearing loss in the short term, these solutions can enable your family member to continue to avoid treatment. Speaking clearly and directly facing a loved one only goes so far. If you find yourself working as a “hearing aid” by repeating what others say and filling in the gaps in conversation, the time has come to have a conversation about hearing assistance.

6. Don’t Be Overcome with Emotion

The moment you become frustrated by your loved one’s condition is not the best time to have this conversation about hearing assistance. When you feel like you are at your wit’s end with struggling to communicate, your emotions can get the best of you. Wait until you are calm and supportive to have the conversation about hearing assistance. Simply by asking questions and listening patiently to the answers, you will likely find that your loved one also wants help.

7. Do Offer an Optimistic Outlook

As we know, hearing loss can be a frustrating condition for all involved, but the good news is that assistance is available! Technological innovations are remarkable when it comes to hearing aids and new functionality. You will be surprised at the range of options now available after your family member has taken the first step in the direction of assistance. Scheduling a hearing test is the first step toward better hearing, and you might wonder why you waited so long to take the plunge. Although hearing aids might not restore your loved one’s hearing ability to crystal clarity in all cases, they can be remarkably helpful when it comes to conversation and communication.