What can I do to help someone with hearing loss?

When someone is diagnosed with a hearing loss, it is natural for them to feel upset or disheartened about it. The person may have mixed emotions such as denial, anger, anxiety, sadness or confusion. It is important for close friends or family to be very supportive and help the person to come to terms with it. Providing a good listening ear and being empathetic is the best way to show support, and some words of encouragement will go a long way.

If hearing aids are needed for him, make sure to reassure him that he does not have to be conscious about it and that it is perfectly normal. He may have avoided social situations due to his hearing difficulties, and so, as a loved one it would be good to try and bring him out of his shell by giving him confidence and helping him deal with being in different listening environments.
It is also important to encourage him to wear his hearing aids consistently if he forgets to do so. If the patient has dexterity or cognitive issues, it would be important for his loved ones to help him with general care and maintenance of his hearing aid, such as with cleaning or changing batteries.

Practicing good communication skills is especially important as hearing aids do not guarantee that the person can hear well in all situations and with multiple speakers or in noisy environments. Friends and family can help by practicing good communication strategies and informing others to do so as well.

Some examples of good strategies are as follows:
 Maintain good eye contact and face the person so that he can use speechreading and observe your body language to grasp the full meaning and context of the information conveyed
 Use simpler sentences with pauses instead of complex or long sentences as this may cause auditory fatigue for the patient
 Say the patient’s name before starting the conversation to get his attention first
 Be prepared to repeat or rephrase your words in case the patient did not understand it
 Try to have conversations in an area with less background noise and good lighting
 In a group situation or meeting, try to remind the others to take turns speaking
 Do not abruptly change the topic of the conversation. Try to ease into the next topic or inform the person about the change in topic or context
 Tell your loved one to inform you if he did not catch what you or someone else said, and to let you know if he is having trouble or straining to listen
 If you are giving important details, have the person repeat it back to you so that both parties can be sure that the information conveyed was accurate
 Encourage him to enrol in aural rehabilitation classes or courses
 Be patient with them and have a positive attitude! This will give them more confidence to expose themselves to more challenging listening situations and which in turn will improve their speech discrimination ability over time

Another way to show support to a loved one with hearing loss is by being an advocate yourself. Be proactive and suggest to the management in organisations if they do not provide services or cater to the needs of hearing impaired.

-Sonia Jaya, Audiologist (MyEar Singapore & Stealth Sonics)