Last Updated: December 27, 2018
Family gatherings are a wonderful opportunity to come together with the people you love, however, for someone with hearing loss, large gatherings can be overwhelming.
Learn more about how to make family gatherings easier for seniors who can’t hear.
Communication for a parent or senior loved one with a hearing impairment can be challenging, but you can make a few simple adjustments to ensure the family gathering is an inclusive and pleasant experience for everyone:
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Speak in a clear, concise manner without overemphasizing. It is a common mistake for people to speak excessively slowly to a person with hearing loss, which can lead to unnecessary hurt embarrassment and hurt feelings. In fact, exaggerated speech may even make it more difficult for the person to hear what you are saying, as words can sound distorted. If the person is having trouble understanding what you are saying, try rephrasing your words rather than repeating them. Sometimes saying something in a different way can be less complicated and make it easier for him or her to understand you. Avid A Place for Mom reader, Wayne W., has worn hearing aids for 33 years and suggests that rather than rephrasing your words, you continue to repeat your message. As someone with hearing difficulty, he explains that he uses a combination of listening and speech-reading to understand what is being communicated to him. If the person repeats what they are saying, he can confirm some guesses and correct others; however, if the person rephrases, he must begin guessing all over again.
Seniors have lots of legitimate reasons for not wearing their hearing aids or other hearing devices. Often, the cause comes down to simple discomfort. Help ensure that the senior is wearing the hearing aid properly, the volume level is adequate and that it fits properly. If they complain about any of these issues you should get them in touch with their doctor or audiologist so that modifications can be made, or their hearing can be checked to identify any additional loss or problems.
“Perceptive listening” is using context, perception, visual cues and pieces of the conversation the person has heard to figure out what has been said. Encouraging the senior in your life to use perceptive listening (which is a skill that, like any other, should be practiced), will help them to regain some independence when it comes to communicating with family, as well as with people outside the home.
It is important that you are in the best position to be heard, as well as seen, by a person with hearing loss. Face the person directly so that your face, especially your mouth, is in plain sight. Do not obstruct your mouth with your hands, or eat or drink, while trying to communicate. If the person with hearing loss has a favorable ear, be sure to sit on that side of them. When initiating conversation, be sure you have their attention so that you are both focused on the conversation and no words are lost or misunderstood. It is difficult for anyone to jump into a conversation or respond to questions when they have not heard what was spoken or asked of them.
Background noise can be very distracting as well. The noise of multiple conversations taking place around you, the radio or television can obscure the words you are saying. Turn off background noise and relocate to a quieter area to have the best possible conversation. In addition to hearing loss, people with hearing impairments can also be sensitive to loud noises. Be mindful of this when considering background noise.
Most importantly, when communicating with someone who is experiencing hearing loss, be patient and understanding. Hearing loss can have a profound effect on a person’s life and can cause depression, frustration and social withdrawal. It is important to include people with hearing loss in conversation and make your best effort to accommodate their needs. Doing this will ensure that family gatherings are a fun-filled experience for everyone!
How can you include senior loved ones who can’t hear at family gatherings? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments below.