Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS*

Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS*

Hearing loss changes the way we interface with the world, and each person’s experience is unique. The individual nature of hearing loss means that those who do not have loss can feel befuddled with the experience, wondering what it must be like to have this kind of communication impairment. With this gap in understanding, those who do not have hearing loss can make wildly misguided assumptions about those who have hearing loss. In some cases, they remain ignorant to important truths, and in other cases they might develop false beliefs. Let’s try to do away with these false beliefs by setting the record straight. 

Hearing loss doesn’t mean I’m unintelligent

Perhaps the most common misconception about hearing loss is that a person can’t understand what you’re saying. In fact, they can’t hear what you’re saying. This nuanced difference makes many people treat those with hearing loss as if they are less intelligent. Some others seem to think that having hearing loss is rude. They act as if the inability to hear what someone is saying is a social faux pas. Hearing loss is a condition of the body that has nothing to do with the ability to intelligently understand and politely respond in conversation. Sometimes those without hearing loss slow down or exaggerate the simplicity of their language in an earnest attempt to assist a person with hearing loss, but that accommodation effort can backfire and make the person feel as if you are condescending. 

Answering questions for me isn’t helpful

When you are in a social setting with someone who has hearing loss, your preoccupation might be to make sure that the conversation proceeds. In an effort to keep things flowing, some people have a tendency to bypass the person with hearing loss altogether. Rather than rephrasing questions in a way that can be heard by this person, a loved one might have a tendency to answer on their behalf. This gesture not only makes it impossible for the person to engage directly, but it also relies on the false assumption that you know what the person is thinking. Particularly when answering questions, you surely don’t know exactly how your loved one would respond, and speaking on their behalf can be not only damaging but also incorrect!

Hearing loss creates fatigue

You might have noticed a point at which your loved one with hearing loss checks out on the conversation. Rather than continuing the struggle to engage, this person might mentally leave the conversation at some point and begin staring in space. Although you might feel frustrated that your loved one is not engaging anymore, you might be forgetting that hearing loss is quite exhausting. When you are trying to put together the puzzle of a conversation without all the pieces, the mind can become tired, confused, and jumbled. Rather than continuing to work toward an understanding, many people with hearing loss give up the struggle at some point in the conversation, and you can understand this tendency as a response to fatigue. 

You can help!

Although these facets of life as a person with hearing loss are difficult, there are things you can do to help. Rather than slowing down your speech to an insulting pace, simply raise the volume a bit when you talk. Always stand in the same room with your loved one who has hearing loss rather than calling out from another part of the house. Rather than answering questions for that person, you can simply rephrase the question at a closer distance, making it possible for your loved one to answer on their own. Rather than becoming frustrated when your loved one checks out, take the opportunity to express compassion and understanding. 

Treating Hearing Loss

Beyond all of these helpful tips, the best thing you can do is to encourage your loved one to get a hearing test and to seek treatment. Our expert team connects you with the technology you need to hear better,, and the options for hearing aids are advancing every day. Simply starting a conversation about the experience of hearing loss might be all it takes to get your loved one on the road to better communication.