An NIDCD report says that “among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16 percent) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them.”

This translates to meaning that 60% of those over 70 with a hearing loss need those around them to find ways to communicate in a way that helps them understand.

How Does Hearing Impairment Affect Communication In Adults?

Hearing loss can wreak havoc on communication. From making speech unclear and difficult to understand to not being able to hear at all in certain situations, life for someone with a hearing loss can become miserable quickly.

Normal hearing allows one the opportunity to hear and understand communication in a wide variety of listening situations. However, when hearing is impaired, hearing and understanding speech become quite challenging, depending on the degree of impairment.

Often people will avoid certain situations if they know that they will have difficulty hearing there.

What Challenges Do Those With A Hearing Impairment Face When Communicating?

When we can hear clearly, we can communicate clearly. When we can’t hear clearly, it’s similar to being in a foreign country – we quickly become exhausted with the effort of focusing on body language, facial movements, and spoken words and we get things wrong a lot.

Hearing loss means that we only hear and understand small portions of a conversation, and the challenge of trying to compensate for what we don’t hear can become frustrating and embarrassing.

How Should I Approach People With Impaired Hearing?

Trying to communicate with someone whose hearing is impaired can be challenging for both parties, but there are a few things you can do to make things easier for you both.

1.  Face them directly so they can see your facial expressions and body language and there are no sound buffers or noise between you. Some people might want to lip read what you are saying too, so keep your hands and hair away from your face.
2.  Make sure you have their attention, or they might not even know you are talking.
3.  Speak more slowly than you might normally, and enunciate your words. Pause for a second after each sentence.
4.  Don’t shout. It can make the words harder to distinguish.
5.  Don’t eat or drink while you are talking so your speech is clear.
6.  Try to speak in a spot free of background noise or at least quieter.
7.  Repeat yourself if you think it’s needed or they seem confused, but rephrase the sentence if you need to make yourself clearer.
8.  You might need to write down certain words for those with a more severe hearing loss. Have paper and a pen or a notepad app on your phone handy.
9.  Give them the opportunity to respond when they want to.

How Do You Get The Attention Of Someone With Impaired Hearing?

You can tap them on the arm or say their name. Stand in front of them before you speak. If it’s a very noisy spot and their hearing loss is profound, you can type out a note on your phone asking them to move to another quiet spot to speak.

How Can You Overcome Hearing Impairment Barriers?

It’s important that you don’t end up becoming your loved one’s hearing person when the right hearing treatment can make everything so much less frustrating for you both and when it can restore the independence of the person with a hearing loss.

Many loved ones end up being accused by the person with a hearing loss of nagging, being bossy, complaining, or not speaking loudly or clearly enough on purpose.

The truth is that anyone with a hearing loss needs to prioritize their hearing health not just for themselves but also for their loved one’s peace of mind.

A hearing loss is no one’s fault, but not treating it isn’t advised. Neglecting hearing treatment can lead to so many detrimental side effects — self-imposed isolation, depression, poor health, cognitive decline, and more — not to mention the possible loss of a job or breakdown of a relationship.

When the right treatment is applied, I’ve seen so many patients break down in tears, wishing they had asked for help sooner because being able to hear again brings them so much joy.

How Can I Encourage A Loved One To Seek Help?

Trying to persuade a loved one to get help can be even more frustrating than trying to communicate with them, when they are entrenched in denial or a disdain for medical help. But with compassion, education, and support, they often come around.

Focus on the end goal of rich communication again, and learn and share about what a hearing assessment looks like and today’s advances in hearing aids, some of which are invisible to others and can be controlled on a phone app.

Offer to go with them to any audiology appointment, or even to get a hearing test yourself at the same time.

I’m here to help with any of your questions or needs, and I’m happy to even see your loved one for a Q&A visit to set their mind at ease.

To schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment, please click here.

There are simply too many great options for helping someone with a hearing loss communicate and enjoy life again. Contact me today to see how I can help. We’re here to make your communication great again!

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Dr. Michelle Couture-Souvenir, Au.D

Dr. Michelle Couture-Souvenir, Au.D., is Florida’s leading doctor of audiology and has over 25 years of experience in this dynamic industry. Before setting up her own business in Florida & Central America, she served as a pediatric audiologist and rehabilitative services manager at the Miami Children’s Hospital. She has worked with patients of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds during her long and diverse career, and she is still heavily involved in international humanitarian projects, helping hearing-impaired children globally.