Improving Communication with family

How to Improve Family Communication

Olga Lis, MS, CCC-A

When a family member has hearing loss, it can make natural conversations difficult, resulting in feelings of isolation, frustration, and resentment all around. The good news is, there are solutions.


Treating hearing loss with hearing aids will make a difference right away, in a big way. But it helps to have additional communication strategies to avoid misunderstandings and reduce stress. 


Check out these easy communication strategies that will make conversations flow more smoothly in your household.


Be sure to get your listener’s attention before speaking

Visual signs are vital for those who have a significant hearing loss. When hearing loss isn’t facing the speaker and can’t see their lips, deciphering speech might be challenging. Patting your hard-of-hearing loved one on the shoulder to gain their attention before speaking to them is a simple and effective way to start the conversation.


Try not to get upset over misunderstandings

When you don’t feel heard or understood, it’s reasonable that you might get offended. Take a step back and take a deep breath if this happens. Allow your emotions to settle, and remember that your loved one is going through their struggles and isn’t ignoring or misinterpreting you on purpose. 


Decide whether you want to take another approach to resolve the misunderstanding or go on in the conversation once you’ve calmed down. Both you and your conversation partner will feel more calm and empathic as a result.


Make an effort to enunciate

When talking with your hard-of-hearing loved one, you’ll need to put in the extra effort to speak as clearly and precisely as possible. This is especially important if you are someone who naturally talks at the speed of light or has a tendency to mumble! 


However, it isn’t necessary to slow down your speech to an unnatural rate. Speaking at an average, relaxed pace and making sure to enunciate is the best way for you to be understood. 


One-word answers are easy to misunderstand

Being mindful of how you speak will make communication easier and less stressful for everyone involved. When we talk, we naturally speed up and shorten our speech, and it’s not uncommon to give hasty, one-word answers to questions. But it can be easy for someone with hearing loss to miss these answers the first time and lose the thread of conversation. 


Instead of responding with “yes” or “no,” try your best to use complete sentences such as “Yes, I liked the dinner” or “No, he isn’t coming with us.” 

Rephrasing is better than repeating

If your hard-of-hearing loved one has trouble understanding you the first time around, avoid repeating yourself word for word. It is more effective to rephrase your statement or question, giving your family member a chance to pick up on different keywords.


Seek out professional advice if your family needs help

Suppose you and your loved ones have struggled to cope with communication difficulties resulting from a family member’s untreated hearing loss. In that case, it may be time to get some professional guidance. A counselor can help diffuse the conflict and suggest strategies that bring more understanding and peace to the household. Additionally, many hearing care specialists have expertise in helping families communicate and would gladly offer their support.

Bring hearing aids into the equation

It is common for new hearing aid users to require an adjustment period, where they get used to wearing their hearing devices. If someone in your family has just started wearing hearing aids, the key is to be consistent and gradual in their approach to hearing devices. The best way to do this is to wear their hearing aids for a short amount of time each day and slowly build up from there until they are comfortable wearing them all day long. 


The best thing they can do to improve their health and happiness–and the happiness of your family–is to keep making an effort and wear their hearing aids every day. 


If a loved one has hearing loss but hasn’t sought treatment yet, do your best to encourage them to consider professional help. Once you have, we’re happy to take over and provide them with the care they need.