Thursday, November 22, 2007

When Your Loved One is Hard of Hearing: What to Tell Visiting Family

Hearing loss occurs for a variety of reasons. While it can be a normal part of the aging process, hearing loss frequently occurs due to exposure to noises associated with occupational exposure.

It can be difficult for visiting family members to communicate well with a person who is hearing impaired. Encourage them with these suggestions so that they can have a worthwhile visit:
1. Always be sure to get the person's attention before speaking.
2. Position yourself so that the person can see your face clearly.
3. Speak clearly, slowly, in good lighting, and directly facing the hearing-impaired person.
4. Form words carefully and keep sentences relatively short.
5. Lower the pitch of your voice. Also adjust telephone rings, doorbells, and emergency alarms to a low tone.
6. Avoid unnecessary chatter that may confuse the person. Try to reduce distractions in the immediate environment.
7. Use facial expressions or gestures appropriately to help express yourself. Visual clues are important in helping the hearing-impaired person understand what you say.
8. Check to make sure the person understands what you are saying. Rephrase your message if necessary, and try to give more clues. (For example, instead of saying, "The nurse will be dropping by this afternoon to see you," rephrase as, "Your nurse, Mom, will be coming here at 3 o'clock to check on you.")
9. Avoid chewing gum and placing your hands by your mouth when you speak.
10. Demonstrate your willingness to take the time and energy to communicate with the person.
11. Do not lose your patience.
12. Learn in which ear the person has better hearing and try to speak to that side.
13. Don't shout. Shouting only increases non-intelligible sounds. Increasing the loudness only distorts what the person hears.
14. Do not speak in places where background noise such as traffic or many persons talking at once can interfere with hearing.
15. Don't speak too softly, run words together, or look away from the listener while speaking.

Here are some other don'ts that can interfere with lip-reading:
1. Don't exaggerate.
2. Don't speak too fast.
3. Don't speak in poorly lit areas.
4. Don't speak with something in your mouth - pencil, food, gum, cigarette.