How To Help Someone With Hearing Loss

Time to Read: 8 minutes

Hearing loss is an invisible disability. It affects people in different ways. If you are close to someone with hearing loss, you play an important role in helping your loved one to maximise their hearing.

Two smiling students having a cup of coffee in college canteenBe Supportive of the Decision

The decision to purchase hearing aids is a major one. Research reveals that most people wait five to eight years after first noticing hearing loss to get their first hearing aids. The reasons for the delay might be:

  • Denial of hearing loss
  • Fear of ageing
  • Fear of being mocked for wearing hearing aids
  • Not knowing whether hearing aids will work for them

If your family member mentions their intention of having a hearing test with a view to being fitting with hearing aids, there are a couple of things you can do to support them:

  • Ask if they would like you to accompany them to the appointment. It’s not just for moral support either. Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, you play an important role of being an extra set of ears.
  • Have your own hearing tested. It is something you should do on a regular basis for your own hearing health. By taking a test, you can better understand how hearing works and the nature of hearing loss.

Be Patient

Beautiful portrait of an elderly couple outdoorsIf you’ve ever had new glasses - particularly multifocals - you know what it is like to feel slightly disoriented as your brain tries to process the brightness, sharpness and clarity of the vision it is receiving.

Hearing aids works in a similar way. 

There is the sound which goes into the ears,  calibrated to address the client’s very specific hearing loss and then there is the brain’s processing ability as it begins to interpret sounds it may not have heard for a while.

We advise our clients to take their time with their hearing aids to get used to wearing them. Ideally, hearing aids should be worn at least 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week and that requires perseverance.

Be patient and kind  as your loved one gets used to the hearing aid and exploring the different programs and features.

We have some great information here which will be valuable for you both to read:

Communication Skills

Smiling businesswoman listening to her workmate talking in bright officeAs we mentioned earlier, the ears hears and the brain listens. So even with hearing aids, your loved one might still need you to be mindful on how and when you speak to them.

The University of California - San Francisco has a great guide on how to communicate effectively with people with hearing loss:

  • Make sure you’re face to face and in good light. Whether you know it or not, we all use visual cues to help us to effectively hear. Keeping your face well lit will help your loved one hear you effectively.
  • Don’t talk from another room or from behind a closed door. We’re all guilty of doing it, but it truly does make it difficult to hear and understand. We also understand that this is the number one cause of disputes between spouses.
  • Enunciate clearly. Don’t shout or exaggerate your mouth movements. It actually makes you more difficult to understand.
  • Say the person's name before beginning a conversation. This gives the listener a chance to focus attention and reduces the chance of missing words at the beginning of the conversation.
  • Don’t speak at a million miles a minute. Slow down a little, pause between sentences or phrases, and wait to make sure you have been understood before going on.
  • Keep your hands away from your face while talking. If you are eating, chewing, smoking, etc. while talking, your speech will be more difficult to understand. Beards and moustaches can also interfere with the ability of the hearing impaired to speech read.
  • If your loved one hears better in one ear than the other, make a point of remembering which ear is better so that you will know where to position yourself.
  • Be aware of possible distortion of sounds for the hearing-impaired person. They may hear your voice, but still may have difficulty understanding some words.
  • Most hearing-impaired people have greater difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise. Try to reduce extraneous noise when talking.
  • Some people with hearing loss are very sensitive to loud sounds. This reduced tolerance for loud sounds is not uncommon. Avoid situations where there will be loud sounds when possible.
  • If the hearing-impaired person has difficulty understanding a particular phrase or word, try to find a different way of saying the same thing, rather than repeating the original words over and over.
  • Acquaint the listener with the general topic of the conversation. Avoid sudden changes of topic. If the subject is changed, tell the hearing impaired person what you are talking about now. In a group setting, repeat questions or key facts before continuing with the discussion.
  • If you are giving specific information – such as time, place or phone numbers – to someone who is hearing impaired, have them repeat the specifics back to you. Many numbers and words sound alike.
  • Whenever possible, provide pertinent information in writing, such as directions, schedules, work assignments, etc.
  • Recognize that everyone, especially the hard-of-hearing, has a harder time hearing and understanding when ill or tired.
  • Pay attention to the listener. A puzzled look may indicate misunderstanding. Tactfully ask the hearing-impaired person if they understood you, or ask leading questions so you know your message got across.
  • Take turns speaking and avoid interrupting other speakers.
  • Enroll in aural rehabilitation classes with your hearing-impaired spouse or friend

If you’d like more information to support and assist someone with hearing loss, we have more some useful resources: