Last week at Mass, I was edified to see our visiting priest gesture with his hand, indicating which Eucharistic Prayer he would be using, for the benefit of a hearing impaired individual in our chapel. This made me think of developing an article, providing tips for better communication with individuals, especially the elderly, who suffer from hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a very common difficulty. Even when the person has a hearing aide, make sure you practice good protocols.
Some seniors, unfortunately, respond to hearing loss by isolating from others. If we can take some simple, small steps, we can, hopefully, making the communication process easier for them and avoid such isolation.
Hearing loss, unfortunately, is usually marked not only by loss of hearing volume, but also includes diminished ability to decipher soft sounds and high pitches. Face the person, with light on your face. Speak slowly and do not shout. Start conversation on the listener’s name. Perhaps, touch their hand and make eye contact before starting to speak. Sitting at a round table can make it easier for the hearing impaired person to lip read with all individuals present. Make sure they can easily see your face. Visual clues are very important.
Make the topic of the conversation as clear as possible. Shouting and exaggerated speech actually changes one’s lip pattern and makes it harder to lip read. Use simple sentences and stop in between. Pausing at appropriate times helps give a hearing impaired individual the chance to catch up on processing what you are saying.
Make sure you are understood. Stand or sit near their better ear. Try to eliminate background noise. Many people with hearing loss don’t tolerate loud sounds well. Don’t change the subject quickly. If you need to change topic, make sure you let them know. Have them repeat things back to you. Remember that if they are tired or not feeling well, they will have a harder time comprehending.
Keep your hands away from your face, and don’t have anything else near (food, gum, etc.). If you are not understood, re-phrase the statement rather than repeating it over and over. Apps on a phone can convert spoken words into text, and this may be helpful. Try to make sure only one person speaks at a time. Ask the hearing impaired person how you can help improved communication.
Half of individuals over 75 suffer from hearing loss, and one in three between 65 and 74 do likewise.