All too often the person with hearing loss takes on the sole responsibility of communication. It is a heavy burden… and it’s not realistic. Everyone has miscommunication issues at times. It takes two to make communication happen, even if it’s two hearing people, one person with hearing loss and a hearing person or two hard of hearing people. All people have to do their part; at home, at work and out in public.
“Go get hearing aids and everything will be fine.” Ummm…yes they will help but no, they don’t solve the whole problem with hearing loss. Hearing aids & cochlear implants help but they do not give us natural hearing abilities. Even with our hearing devices, changes are needed on both sides for proper communication to happen. If our hearing family, friends and coworkers don’t do their part, we cannot do our part.
3 Golden Rules
- Get the person’s attention with hearing loss before talking.
- Face them the whole time while talking.
- Be within 6 feet for line of sight and a direct line of hearing.
Why? Even if we don’t know it, we all lipread to some degree. It gives us a second to shift gears and focus. Our hearing devices have limits, they aren’t called ‘hearing miracles’ for a reason. Using these 3 rules as a healthy communication boundary will create new communication habits and they will reduce everyone’s frustration.
Communication rules for rough patches.
Julia: My husband has a mild hearing loss. In recent months it’s become a little more obvious. Just the other day it became apparent that my youngest may have to go to the audiologist soon. He is 22 and odds are his insurance will not cover hearing aids so I am unsure what this will even look like. Luckily, we have practiced the three golden rules for many, many years. Though neither have hearing aids, yet, our communication rules have helped us through rough patches.
Here is what I want to make folks understand, why I get all up in everybody’s jammy, to get in the know.
Hearing loss or dementia???
My husband is 20 years older than me. One day seven or so years ago, he started showing what I thought were signs of early onset dementia. He was asking me the same questions over and over, questions that had nothing to do with what we were talking about. He had trouble understanding others while on his cell phone but instead of saying I didn’t hear you, he went silent or made excuses on why he didn’t respond. Anger was quick when he didn’t understand or if he answered wrong. This left me questioning what he could and couldn’t comprehend. There were a lot of blank stares when I asked him questions.
By coincidence, around the same time I captioned an event at our local HLAA Chapter that was about knowing the difference between hearing loss and dementia. WOW. The light bulb went off!!! I went from stressing over where I would place him if I could no longer take care of him, to researching Bluetooth options at home to help him hear.
Here’s the deal…
Odds are, he isn’t going to get hearing aids any time soon (as I said at least seven years plus folks) and I’m not going to make him without him being ready first. His hearing loss is still mild. With Medicare now helping pay for hearing aids, and over the counter, I know we have options. And because I have worked closely with my HoH relations in Utah I know most of the Audiologists and who we will go to when he’s ready.
Here’s what I think I’m getting at. Hearing aids or no hearing aids, hearing loss is about communication changes. Hearing partners have got to do their part. If they don’t, misunderstandings set in. Anger drives the misunderstanding and up goes the collateral damage for both parties. Practice the 3 golden rules everywhere. I am here to tell you to practice it with:
- Your kids, young and old
- Your grandkids
- Your coworkers
- Your parents
- Your significant other
It will become a habit.
Practice, practice, practice!
Chelle: I brought my husband to work to talk about communication in our relationship. Julia, Ken and I talk about what it means to have someone with hearing loss in the family on our podcast. He explains the grief he feels losing casual conversation. You can watch, or listen to, our podcast to find how we deal with miscommunication. No one is perfect, including us.
Focus on progess, not perfection.
Over the years, I’ve helped many people become aware of hard of hearing communication needs. My mom listened. She learned and she recognizes the signs of hearing loss. She now helps others understand hearing loss.
Earlier this week, she told me about going to a lab for blood work. The staff all wear masks. There was an older lady who couldn’t understand what the staff was telling her. My mom told her friend, “She can’t understand because they have masks on.” Her friend wanted to know what difference that made. My mom replied, “She lipreads and can’t see what they are saying, like Chelle.” Later in the elevator, that lady confessed to my mom’s friend that she indeed uses lipreading. (Mask also taught many of us how much we rely on lipreading.)
Luckily my whole family is accommodating. As I learned more about hearing loss, like how I heard…what made it difficult…hearing aids had limits and more; those closest to me understood more. I shared my journey with them through blogging, breaking down my HoH moments. My parents, my boyfriend (now husband) and more read them. I talked and talked. I’m still talking! Make your family a part of the solution when having problems. If there was a communication breakdown, ask them to help you find a solution.
Share your journey. Help people become aware. Educate yourself. Introduce hearing loss in a conversation. One in five people have a hearing loss so chances are they have someone in their family with hearing loss. Or they know someone at work with hearing loss. Our conversations make a difference.
Share the 3 Golden Rules
Use the golden rules. Let’s get the word out so more people understand our communication needs. We aren’t just helping ourselves, we are helping all others who come after us.
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If you like our information, Buy us a Cup of Coffee. Phase one of our business is completed. Most of our content is free to help those in need; podcasts, blogs, workshops, presentations and more. We will keep these things free because we are passionate about people becoming more successful with their hearing loss.
Phase two begins. We are currently crowdfunding through Buy Me a Cup of Coffee. This will get our feet beneath us. Starting in January 2023 we will continue our Lipreading Concepts class for which there is a small fee. We are adding a Lip Shapes class. We are excited to add sensitivity training to our services as there is a huge need for the public at large to understand HoH communication needs. Employees and clients with hearing loss are misunderstood. We led a training last year with the Women’s Business Center which successfully cleared up misconceptions.