Half of older people over the age of 75 experience difficulty hearing and men are twice as likely as women to suffer from hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness. Not being able to hear well can make anyone feel more isolated and “out of touch.” It also makes many feel very vulnerable especially for those who live alone. The last thing any senior needs is to disconnect with others. Even the simple task of talking on the phone becomes something to dread.
So if you have an older loved one who is experiencing hearing loss, how can you communicate with them more effectively? Or if you have hearing difficulties, how can you help those in your life help you understand what they’re saying?
Speaking in Person
My own father has profound hearing loss and has for years. A childhood illness left him deaf in one ear. Now over 80 he still refuses to get a hearing aid for his “good ear”. I’ve learned never to try to have a conversation with him when I’m on his left side and if I want a really good conversation I wait until there’s little to distract us. Let your friends and loved ones know which side you hear best from. Ask them to move to that side when they talk to you.
If you’re speaking to someone with hearing loss, always try to be close to them so they can see your face and eyes. So much of how we communicate is not by sound but by looking at facial expressions. Making good eye contact also tells the other person that their words are important to you. Give them a little extra time to respond to your words and decipher what you’ve said. You may also need to rephrase something you’ve said so they can better understand it.
You Don’t Have to Yell!
First of all, no one likes to be yelled at, but you will have to speak a little louder. Speak to your hearing impaired friend or loved one a little more slowly and distinctly. According to HealthyHearing.com, men usually lose the ability to hear higher pitched voices, while women lose the lower frequencies. Vowel sounds are harder for women while consonants are harder for men.
Talking on the Right Phone
There are many specialized phones on the market that will help anyone with a hearing problem. Californiaphones.org offers free phones for those with hearing problems, sight problems or even speaking problems. I ordered one for my dad. It only takes a simple form to fill out. You then take it to your doctor for his or her signature. My dad’s phone can be dialed up in volume, it lights up when it rings and it has huge buttons.
According to HealthyHearing.com, people who do find the right hearing aid report a better quality of life, less anxiety and depression. I wish I could convince my dad on that one! I just can’t imagine not being able to hear the birds sing outside, or my grandbabies cooing. Being able to hear also keeps us safer in our homes, in our cars and in public.