According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and nearly 50% of those 75 years or older have difficulty hearing. Hearing impairments can cause issues and frustration for caregivers, family, friends, and even to the seniors themselves.
At Oaks Senior Living, we know firsthand that hearing impairments can make communication difficult for everyone involved. We aim to help by providing a few tips for successfully and respectfully communicating with a senior dealing with a hearing impairment.
Tip #1: Reduce Background Noise
One simple but effective tip when talking to a parent or senior with a hearing impairment is to reduce any background noise. Music, television, and other sounds can make it difficult for anyone to hear, so reducing these will assist the communication. If you’re unable to adjust the volume of the background noise, try moving to a more quiet area. If you’re at a restaurant or public space, avoid sitting too close to large parties or kitchen areas.
Tip #2: Maintain Eye Contact & Speak Naturally
Eye contact is a key component of communication. Make eye contact and ensure your facial expressions and body language add to the message being conveyed (excitement, frustration, etc.).
Speak naturally - do not yell or shout. Shouting distorts words making them challenging to understand. Speak at a normal rate and use pauses rather than slow speech, to give the person time to process. Don’t be afraid to ask if they understand what you’re saying, as sometimes rephrasing your message can assist.
Tip #3: One at a Time
Multiple speakers can make it hard for anyone to understand what is being said, especially a person with a hearing impairment. When talking to your loved one, make sure that it’s one speaker at a time. This point will help to reduce confusion and the need to repeat what was said.
Tip #4: Visual Cues
For a person with hearing impairments, sometimes a visual cue can be beneficial to understand the message being conveyed. If the topic you’re discussing warrants a visual cue, such as pointing at the object or area you’re referencing, use it.
Tip #5: Lighting is a Factor
It is important to keep in mind that many of those dealing with memory impairments use facial expressions and lip-reading to understand. Poor lighting - either too dark or too bright - can make it difficult for the recipient to see your face and fully understand your message.
Tip #6: Be Patient and Respectful
The most important thing you can do is be patient and respectful towards the person you’re talking to. It can be easy to want to raise your voice or get frustrated with the situation. However, proper communication comes with a warranted level of patience and respect from everyone involved.
Many seniors struggle with hearing impairments, but following these tips and having patience and understanding will allow for better communication. Oaks Senior Living aims to provide articles and tips on healthy aging and senior living. We encourage you to check out our Oaks Senior Living blog for more helpful information!