Communicate better with your loved ones who battle with hearing loss.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
— Leo Buscaglia

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting the elderly, especially from the age of 65. One may experience either a sudden or gradual decrease in how well one can hear. Apart from old age, hearing loss can happen for various reasons - constant exposure to loud noises, bacterial infections, head injuries or even heart conditions.

As we get older, the tiny hair cells in our ears slowly break down and can’t pick up the same sound vibrations as well as they used to.  Hearing loss can make people feel embarrassed. It’s important to learn how best to communicate with loved ones so that they don’t feel isolated from activities they enjoy. The following tips may not help or be applied in every situation, but using them will let you feel at ease knowing you’re doing the best you can to engage in a productive manner.  


1. Don’t tell them what to do, rather make ‘suggestions.’

Parents have guided and advised their children through hardships their whole lives, so receiving advice from their child may not go over too well! This highlights a common challenge for many, ‘the parent-child role reversal.’ It can be hard for many parents to accept. Giving advice best be avoided unless it has been requested or said in a way that is merely a suggestion. You can provide encouragement and support by suggesting an outside party, without giving advice.


2. Agree to disagree.

For some of us, this may be a bit tricky! It’s often in our nature to state the facts and have the correct outcome. But no matter how close the relationship, not everyone is going to agree all the time. With loss of hearing, there’s no doubt emotions are already heightened. Respect everyone’s opinion the same way you would like yours to be, and don’t disregard those who disagree with you.


3. Speak clearly and with a purpose.

Some of our loved ones don’t like to admit a weakness and let on that they are having trouble hearing or keeping up with the conversation. Have patience, talk clearly; talk loudly, but never shout; speak at your normal pace, but don’t increase your speed when you get excited about the topic. If the response to your topic or question isn’t quite what you expected, repeat it in a different tone or using different words, giving them another chance to grasp what you said.


4. Choose the right kind of environment.

Avoid having an in-depth conversation in settings where there is a lot going on. Face your loved one as you talk to them so he or she can pick up on your facial expressions and possibly read your lips. Don’t set a person that is hard of hearing at the end of the table, isolated from conversation, rather place them in the middle so the conversation is happening around them.


5. Laugh whenever you can.

Laughter really is the best medicine. Humorous moments often arise, more than you think they do, when in difficult caregiving situations. Always look for an opportunity to lighten things up and take situations less seriously. A shared laugh eases tension and builds closeness. Be sure to laugh with them, not at them.


Caregiving can cause frustrations in a household - physically, emotionally, socially and financially. The constant friction can become overwhelming, but learning and using these simple tools of healthy, two-way communication can help family members understand and interact with each other more effectively. At Le Domaine Care, we have permanent, highly trained and experienced staff that enable our facility to be a leader within its field. If you’re looking to put your loved one in our care, pop by any time that is convenient for you and we will give you a tour of our facility.

Wendy Bezuidenhout