In the words of Dr. Mark Ross, “When someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
A hearing-impaired individual has trouble communicating with his family because he can’t hear them, and his family has trouble communicating with him because they can’t get through to him. It is a two-sided problem, and it often results in an endless cycle of half-guessed responses and misunderstandings.
Living with hearing loss or living with someone who has hearing loss is difficult, even with hearing aids. That’s why assertive communication techniques can really help bridge the gap and bring families closer.
If you have hearing loss
Living with hearing loss is difficult, but it’s important to remember that it may be just as difficult for your family. In order to make sure that you can listen to what’s being said, you need to help speakers understand your condition. This means helping them manage expectations and devising communication strategies based on your family’s communication methods.
It helps to enter every conversation with a mindset of active and assertive communication rather than passive listening (even if you are just listening). This means:
•Asking what the topic of conversation is before joining, so as not to disrupt or annoy with unexpected tangents.
•Requesting repetition when you don’t hear something. There’s no shame in doing so when your family knows you have hearing loss.
•Requesting specific confirmations when you miss something rather than relying on general queries, like “What?” or “Huh?”
•Asking speakers to look at you when speaking.
•Asking speakers to spell out words when you can’t understand them.
•Asking speakers with an accent to write things down.
Additionally, individuals with hearing loss can internalize a number of useful preparation techniques that will help them enjoy excursions more. These include:
•Being aware of current events on your own, instead of relying on someone else to tell you the news. This will help you catch keywords and enter conversations smoothly.
•If you’re still working, make it a habit to review meeting agendas in advance.
•Read reviews of movies and plays before you watch them.
•Review the names of guests at a party before you arrive.
If your loved one has hearing loss
As a family member of someone who has hearing loss, your goal in communicating with them is to be as articulate and accurate as possible. This means that you can’t talk to this person the way you might talk to your friends — you need to be assertive and anticipatory while speaking. This means:
•Looking at the listener when speaking
•Speaking precisely and enunciating all your words
•Speaking slower than usual (“slowly” may be too exaggerated)
•Use gestures whenever possible
•Be reassuring and helpful rather than irritable and hurtful. In other words, avoid phrases like “Can you hear me now?” and “Did you hear me?” and patiently repeat what you said instead.
Remember: Living with hearing loss is difficult enough. Always try to be sympathetic and patient with someone who has hearing loss, even if they are being irritable or rude. It’s often a lot harder for them to hear you than it is for you to take the time to patiently speak with them.