Many children of senior parents wonder how to speak to someone who is experiencing hearing loss. Nearly one quarter of people aged 65 to 74 suffer from disabling hearing loss; those figures jump to 50% in people over age 75, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Although age-related hearing loss is common, it can leave you feeling at a loss for how to communicate with your loved one. Both of you may need to learn a new style of speaking to keep communicating effectively.
Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss
The signs of hearing loss can be subtle at first. Many older adults feel embarrassed or sensitive about their hearing difficulties, causing them to mask their problems from loved ones. In fact, some children worry that their senior parents are experiencing memory loss because of the overlap with symptoms of hearing impairment. Consider the following signs of hearing loss to determine whether your loved one would benefit from a professional audiology evaluation:
- Frequently repeating conversations
- Having difficulty communicating in crowds
- Becoming more distant in family gatherings
- Using a high volume on the TV or radio
- Having difficulty following conversations or asking frequent questions
How to Speak to Someone Who Is Experiencing Hearing Loss
When learning how to speak with someone who is experiencing hearing loss, remember that your parent is still an intelligent, autonomous person. Keep speaking naturally and do not shout to be heard. Shouting actually distorts words and makes them more difficult to hear. Instead, work to gain your parent’s attention by saying her name or tapping her shoulder.
Once you have your loved one’s attention, maintain eye contact while speaking clearly. If you have a tendency to mumble, work hard to articulate your words. Make sure you do not cover your face with your hands, which can make it harder for the listener to obtain visual cues about your speech.
Sometimes, your loved one will simply not understand what you say. He may have to ask you to repeat yourself. Whenever possible, try to rephrase what you asked. For example, instead of saying, “Did you see Susan’s new dress?” you might want to try, “What did you think of the outfit Susan was wearing?” Certain words can be difficult for a hearing impaired person to pick out of a conversation. Rephrasing increases the likelihood that they will understand what you meant.
At Lexington Squares, we know how challenging it can be to communicate with someone who is experiencing hearing loss. That is why we developed our Parent Care Guide ebook to help you navigate life with a senior parent.