Improving Communication with Your Family

Improving Communication with Your Family   

Olga Lis, MS, CCC-A

Even the closest families need help communicating every now and then, but there is a heightened demand for assistance when hearing loss enters the picture. By its very nature, difficulty hearing negatively impacts communications and necessitates incorporating new ways of interacting. This can be a difficult pill for most families and social groups to swallow. We like doing things the way we always have. It’s comfortable for us and devising new strategies takes energy.

But, when you or a loved one is faced with hearing challenges, finding new ways to communicate with each other becomes of paramount importance. Hearing loss can be an extremely isolating issue. At a time when we need our friends and family the most, verbal conversations might feel like more trouble than they’re worth. 

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are slight adjustments you can make that ease troublesome spots in conversation and verbal interaction. Practice these habits mindfully and before long they’ll be second nature! In time, you can regain some of the ease lost due to the effects of hearing loss on your relationship.


Share your challenges

It can be difficult to disclose your hearing loss, but there is a payoff to practicing being upfront about the challenges you face in conversations. To start, vulnerability with people you trust can create a deeper sense of closeness. Think back to times people have shared their private struggles with you? Can’t you still feel the compassion rise up? Moreover, the people you are disclosing your hearing troubles are more willing to make allowances or have more patience. 

Disclosing hearing loss can also increase your confidence. Doing something for the first time can be incredibly scary. But, practicing disclosing your hearing loss is exactly that: a practice. The second time and each subsequent moment of vulnerability will become easier until you hardly think twice about it. This can help you to regain confidence and lessen your own self-judgement or the internalized stigmas you have surrounding hearing loss, too! 


Ask them to rephrase

Because specific frequencies rather than overall volume is generally what’s lost in hearing deterioration, repeating the same words louder rarely has a more successful outcome. It’s likely that the words they are using hit at frequencies that are particularly challenging. Instead, ask them to rephrase the thought or sentence with different words. Between the two versions, it is more likely that you’ll understand the context of what they’re saying. 


Seek out a support group

It can be isolating to feel as though you are the only one in your family or social circle struggling with hearing loss. You are not alone! Around 30 million Americans live with hearing loss. Find a support group in your area so that you have a community dealing with your similar issues to lean on. 


Investigate treatment

Most people who choose to treat hearing loss with hearing aids report improved relationships. You may have reasons you are reluctant to confront your hearing loss, but making an appointment for a hearing consultation can only provide you with more information. And being knowledgeable about your condition as well as your options is an empowering step to take!



Enunciate the positive

Speak slowly and clearly, but no need to shout! Amplifying your volume slightly will help your loved one hear you better, but not so much that you are shouting. What is most helpful is to enunciate each word clearly. You can also add pauses in between words, rather than drawing them out dramatically. 


Be aware of background noise

Instead of trying to engage your loved one in the middle of a noisy family gathering, pull them over to a quiet corner. If you are dining out together, realize that communication amongst the din of a busy restaurant will be particularly challenging. Be content with a simple conversation and layer on the patience. As frustrating as the situation might seem to you, it is doubly so for someone with hearing loss. 


Enlist professional help

According to a recent study from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, people with hearing loss are most likely to seek a diagnosis and treatment at the urging of a family member or loved one. If your loved one is resistant to making an appointment for a hearing consultation, suggest that you go together to get your hearing tested. 

Because of your close relationship, you have a large degree of influence on your loved one. Confronting hearing loss can be an intimidating step to take, but knowing that they have your support could be just the impetus they need!