If you’re living with hearing loss, conversations with others can be a challenge. But sometimes “the most effective aids are small lifestyle changes,” says Rosellen Reif, a counselor in Raleigh, NC, who helps people with physical disabilities.
Here are some strategies that can help.
Ask for a heads up. Have your 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 other 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 the kitchen or large parties.
Repeat information back. Many numbers and words sound alike. When you’re getting 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 and not eat, chew gum, or smoke at the same time 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. Instead, try saying what you think you heard. “That small difference makes people feel like you’re trying to understand and can ease tension.”