If you’re living with hearing loss, conversations can be a challenge. But sometimes “the most effective aids are small lifestyle changes,” says Rosellen Reif, a counselor in Raleigh, N.C., who helps people with physical disabilities.
It may take a little work to figure out what's keeping your loved one from eating, but once you do, you can help.
Two experts -- Mary Fennell Lyles, MD, and geriatrics dietitian Dixie Yow, RD, offer these tips to make sure your loved one is getting the nutrition they need.
Ask for a heads up. Have loved ones say your name and get your attention before they start talking. For example, “Mom, where are the car keys?”
Face others when they’re speaking. Make sure you can see a person’s face and lips when they talk. Their expressions and body language will put what they’re saying in context.
Turn off other noise. When you want to have a conversation, switch off things that can drown it out, like a TV or radio, or move away from them. When you’re going out to eat, ask for a table away from large parties or the kitchen.
Repeat information back. Many numbers and words sound alike. When you get important details from someone, like a time or date, repeat it back to them. Better yet, get it in writing.
Know your limits. If you’re sick or tired, your hearing or how well you understand others may be worse than usual.
Tell others what you need. Saying “I’m hard of hearing” is a good start, but “it doesn’t give the person you’re talking with advice for how they can best help you,” Reif says.
Be clear about what you need them to do. You can ask them to look at you when they speak. Also, ask that they not eat, chew gum, or smoke when they’re talking so you can see their mouth.
“By giving people specific ways they can help you hear,” Reif says, “you’re reducing their frustration and confusion as well as your own.”
Find an alternative to “what?” Saying “what?” over and over “can sound rude, especially if you’re saying it a little louder because you’re straining to understand,” says Angela Nelson, a doctor of audiology in Burbank, CA.