February 26, 2024

Improving Communication with Your Family

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With hearing loss affecting approximately 48 million people in the US alone, there is a good chance that someone in your family may be dealing with some degree of hearing damage. This is especially true if someone in your family is 65 years or older. It is estimated that one in three people over the age of 65 and half of seniors over 75 deal with some degree of hearing loss. Even so, hearing loss can affect you or family members at any age due to exposure to loud noise, head trauma, certain medications, and infections. While it is important to take steps to protect yours and your loved one’s hearing it is not always possible. Once hearing loss occurs it cannot be reversed only treated with hearing aids.

A Strain on Relationships

Communication is affected more and more as hearing loss becomes more severe. It can be difficult to communicate important information to family members with hearing loss but just as importantly, it becomes challenging to share casual comments and inside jokes that build intimacy. You may start to feel distant from family members with hearing loss and not understand why.

Know the Signs

Hearing loss is a progressive health issue starting slow and growing worse over time. It is common for people with hearing loss to not be aware of the condition until it progresses to the point where it’s hard to hear even in the most ideal of listening environments. It is often family members that recognize a hearing loss first. The sooner this condition is diagnosed the sooner treatment can begin. Untreated hearing loss has not only been connected to strain on relationships but a lack of self-confidence, higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, social isolation, and a greater risk for accidents that lead to hospitalization. Knowing the signs of hearing loss can allow you to diagnose yourself or a family member before relationships can start to suffer and related health conditions can progress. If you or a family member asks to repeat statements more often than not, complains about the volume of the TV or insists that others mumble, then it is a good idea to schedule a hearing test as soon as possible.

Treat Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids

The most important step for family communication is to wear your hearing aids at all hours from the time you wake up till the time you go to sleep. It is not just enough for your hearing aids when you go out in public. When your hearing aids are left unused, you are back to missing important casual conversation between family members that build intimacy and connection.

Important Communication Strategies for Family Communication

Communication requires at least two people. If you are the speaker, it is important to get the listener’s attention first so they can be fully present to receive the information. This cannot be stressed more for family members with a hearing impairment. Make sure you maintain eye contact and that they have a full view of your face. This way they can rely on facial expression, body language and even lip reading to supplement for what they cannot hear. If you are the listener it is your job to let the speaker know that you understand what they are saying. When everyone in the family works together to ensure active communication hearing issues can cause less stress and strain in the family.

Clear Communication Strategies

Knowing and using communication strategies will relieve stress when speaking to people in the family with hearing loss. Make sure that the person with a hearing disability can see you before you start speaking. Avoid speaking to them from another room as this communication can be missed. Start by saying their name or lightly tapping them on the shoulder before you start speaking. Avoid yelling as this can actually distort the sound. Instead speak clearly and slowly enunciate each word.

Make an Appointment for a Hearing Exam Today

If you suspect that you or someone in your family is dealing with even a slight amount of hearing loss make sure to set up a hearing exam as soon as possible. Hearing tests are quick and painless and can diagnose the extent of a hearing issue so the proper hearing aids can be recommended. The sooner you start wearing hearing aids, the sooner you can lower the stress level in your family, continue to build relationships and get back to enjoying life you love.

Dr. Teague earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing, Speech and Language from Ohio University and his Doctoral Degree in Audiology from The University of Louisville. He is an active member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Board of Audiology.

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