Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Research by UpState Hearing Instruments

Do you have a friend or family member with hearing loss? If you’ve never experienced hearing loss, it makes it difficult to relate.  People with hearing loss often feel exhausted at the end of a long day from straining to hear or the lack of clarity in the conversations they so desperately want to hear.  Hearing loss has been called an invisible disability because it cannot be seen without a hearing test.  Often times we forget or miss that our family member or friend is really not hearing us well which can lead to misunderstandings, isolation and missing out on important information. Hearing loss not only impacts the hard of hearing but their family and friends as well.  Here are a few things people with hearing loss would like you to know:

Hearing loss is tiring…

People with hearing loss struggle to hear day in and day out. In a noisy room, they’re working hard just to hear!  The hard-of-hearing are struggling to understand soft speech sounds, making it difficult to follow conversations. People with good hearing never think about it.  Someone with hearing loss is constantly struggling to hear while playing a never-ending game of fill-in-the-blanks between the words they are able to hear. Hearing loss is exhausting, and people with hearing loss are often very tired by the end of their day.

Don’t assume they’re being rude…

Because hearing loss is invisible, conversation partners may forget about a person’s hearing loss, even when they know.  If your loved one mishears a questions or answers inappropriately, it’s not because they’re rude or not paying attention but most likely didn’t hear you correctly. Don’t assume the worst.  Get their attention, say their name first. Make sure they can see your face, and maybe ask the question a different way (rephrasing). People with hearing loss may not immediately hear you especially in a noisy place like a grocery store.  If they don’t respond to your hello from half an aisle away, don’t assume they’re being rude. Get closer, get their attention, and try again.

People with hearing loss don’t need you to speak for them…

When you’re with someone with hearing loss, it can be tempting to order food for them or answer a question they didn’t understand. If you step in to answer a question that’s been asked of them, they may well feel insulted or upset that they weren’t able to speak for themselves. You can help by rephrasing the question to them, filling in a key word, or asking the speaker to slow down.  Empowering the hard of hearing to speak for themselves is very important.

Rephrase and slow down, don’t just repeat…

When someone with hearing loss asks you to repeat what you said, it can be tempting to repeat the sentence word for word or raise your voice much louder.  Louder is not always clearer.  Rather than repeating exactly what you said, rephrase the question or statement and slow down your cadence a bit.  This will give your loved or friend a better chance of understanding what you said.

Hearing aids are not like glasses…

If your friend wears hearing aids, don’t assume those hearing aids will magically make everything easy to hear. Hearing aids aren’t like glasses and they can never fully restore hearing. Hearing aids make it easier to hear what’s been said, follow conversations, and get back to living a happy and fulfilled life but seldom will they provide “perfect hearing”.   Lots of factors go into hearing loss and hearing better.  Understand that no two hearing losses are the same.  As such, your friend or family member may still struggle to hear especially in complex environments with a lot of background noise, when several people are speaking at once, or hearing someone with a very soft voice.   Help your friend or family member by keeping distractions to a minimum.  Examples include pausing or muting the TV when you have a comment. If in a group, take turns speaking or step away from the noisy environment by going to a quieter room.

What those with hearing loss would like you to remember…

  • Get their attention before you start speaking
  • Never yell from another room
  • Face them whenever you’re speaking
  • Keep your hands away from your mouth when speaking
  • Speak clearly and slow down; louder is not always better
  • Rephrase the question

No one wants to be left out, especially those with hearing loss.  They too want to be involved in conversations, enjoy a social life, and maintain their relationships. If you have a loved one with hearing loss, remember these simple suggestions and incorporate them into your everyday life.  If you’re the one with hearing loss, remember it’s often up to you to educate your family and friends about what they can do to help you hear better and stay engaged.