Things you can do to help your loved one
Communication is key to successful relationships, but it’s the first thing to be compromised when someone has a hearing loss. Even with a hearing device, a person with hearing loss won’t have perfect hearing, and may still find many listening environments challenging.
If your loved one has a hearing loss, you can follow some simple strategies to improve communication with them. Being sensitive to your loved one’s hearing needs will enhance their ease and confidence in conversations and help them adjust more quickly to listening with their hearing device. Remember, communication is a two-way process. Just as your loved one can optimise how they listen, you can use the activities below to better get your message across.
Before starting a conversation, gain your loved one’s attention by saying their name or lightly touching their shoulder, arm or hand. This prepares them to listen, so they are less likely to miss the crucial words at the beginning of the conversation.
Find the best position
Face your loved one directly, on the same level, and within three to five feet to maximise audibility. Make sure there is good lighting on your face and avoid strong lighting coming from behind you or shining in your loved one’s eyes. If your loved one hears better from one ear, move to that side. But avoid speaking directly into their ear, because this distorts the sound and conceals your visual cues.
Avoid background noise
Most people with hearing loss find it harder to understand speech when there is background noise. Turn off the radio or television if you are at home, move away from noisy areas at social gatherings, and ask for a quiet table when going out to dinner.
Speak clearly and naturally
Speak clearly and naturally, pausing between sentences and phrases to give your loved one time to process what you’ve said. Make sure they have understood before going on. Don’t shout or exaggerate your mouth movements as this distorts the sound of speech and makes speech reading more difficult. Use plain language and avoid jargon and complex sentences.
Maintain eye contact and make sure your loved one can see your facial expressions and body language, which add vital meaning to what you are saying. Also pay attention to your loved one’s expressions. If they seem confused or frustrated, check they are still following the conversation.
Rephrase rather than repeat
If your loved one has trouble understanding something you said, try saying it a different way rather than repeating the original words.
Be considerate in group conversations
If your loved one joins a group conversation, let them know the general topic of what you are talking about and tell them when the subject changes. Take turns speaking and avoid interrupting other speakers. Pause to check your loved one has understood key questions and facts before continuing with the discussion.
Don’t hide your face
When talking, try to keep your hands away from your face and don’t eat, chew gum or smoke at the same time. You will speak more clearly and give your loved one the best chance to read your speech. Keep in mind that facial hair can also hide your mouth and make speech reading more difficult.
Use writing and other cues
Provide specific information - such as directions, time, place or phone numbers - in writing as many numbers and words sound alike. You can also use texting, visual media such as pictures, diagrams and charts, and using your finger to write words on the palm of your hand to clarify your message where necessary. Additionally, you and your loved one may decide to learn how to use sign language.
Be patient and understanding
The more supportive and patient you are, the more your loved one can relax and enjoy the conversation. It’s also important to recognise that everyone, especially people with hearing loss, have a harder time understanding when they are tired or not feeling well.
Get involved with aural rehabilitation
Aural rehabilitation services are an essential part of your loved one’s journey back to hearing. By getting involved you can better understand and support your loved one as they learn to listen and communicate with their new hearing technology. Whether your loved one is adjusting to a hearing aid, cochlear implant or bone conduction implant, the active involvement of their friends and family is key to helping them make a smooth transition.
- Gain attention first
- Speak face-to-face and at eye level
- Have clear lighting on your face
- Find a quiet place to talk without background noise
- Speak clearly with pauses but don’t shout
- Use natural facial expressions and gestures
- Use simple language
- Rephrase rather than repeat
- Check in to make sure your listener is following
- Be patient and understanding
The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.