As people get older, their ability to use their senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch – can decrease. One particularly frustrating sense to lose is a person’s hearing.
It can be difficult to notice that a person is losing their hearing as it can go quite slowly and gradually. People around them – friends and family – may find that they need to repeat themselves, or that what they say may get ignored.
For older people with hearing loss, many wait an average of 7 years before they accept they have a problem and get treated.
Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the person who has it. It also affects spouses, family members and friends.
Physically, the inability to hear warning sounds or the voices of other people could potentially put lives in danger. If your loved one cannot hear properly, then they may not be able to help themselves or even be aware that something is wrong.
Emotionally, the impact can resonate throughout family and social circles. Some people struggle with the frustration with repeating things over and over, while other have a deep sense of sadness at seeing a loved one isolate themselves from the people and activities they enjoy.
As difficult as hearing loss is, it is not the fault of the person and they should never be blamed. Patience is the key here – whether it be the patience to calmly communicate with the person or the patience to support them seeking help and treatment.
One of the best things you can do as a loved one to help someone with hearing loss is to educate yourself.
Here are a few things you should remember when communicating with someone who is struggling with hearing loss:
Make a conscious effort to speak louder and more clearly. Mumbling or whispering only frustrates the person and can make them self-conscious about the condition. Speak slowly and clearly, and turn down background noise, like the TV or dishwasher.
However, keep in mind that excessively raising your voice can also distort the sound of your words, so don’t be too loud.
Before speaking, say the person’s name and allow them to acknowledge you; this lets the person know you are speaking to him or her. If the person hears better out of one ear, position yourself accordingly before speaking.
Never attempt to speak to someone who suffers with hearing loss from another room. Visual contact is important for effective communication.
Face the person when you speak to them so they can see your mouth and gestures. If the person relies on lip reading, make sure he or she can see your face. Do not eat, put your hand over your mouth, or turn your head while speaking.
At times when the hearing-impaired person is in public or speaking with someone who isn’t familiar with the hearing problem, offer to be translator and repeat the conversation to the person in a volume he or she can hear and understand.
It’s also wise to avoid locations where background noise might further interfere with the person’s ability to hear.
You won’t get used to living with someone who has hearing loss overnight, but there are things you can do to make life easier.
Do any of these difficulties seem familiar? If you think someone you love might have hearing loss, or you just want to check your own hearing, take an online hearing test today.
Convincing someone to seek help for hearing loss is not always easy.
If someone you care about wants to hear better, visit ihear.com.au or call us on 1300 015 227 to make an appointment.