The involvement of family and friends is widely acknowledged to play a powerful role in a client’s hearing rehabilitation. Research shows that this involvement brings a series of benefits, including increased patient satisfaction, better treatment adherence, and improved uptake of hearing devices.
To encourage and support this involvement, hearing health advocate Shari Eberts wrote the article How to talk to your family about hearing loss, sharing 10 practical tips for people with hearing loss:
- Tell them about your hearing loss
Your immediate family is usually the first to know, but your extended family may not be aware that you have trouble hearing. Be upfront and open about your struggles to allow others to provide the help you need.
- Explain what your hearing loss is like
Hearing loss is difficult to understand for people who have not experienced it, so you may need to explain your hearing loss several times. Suggest that your family members wear earplugs in a safe setting for them to experience what it's like to have hearing difficulties.
- Bring them to your audiologist appointment
Learning about your hearing loss from an expert may help them understand the challenges you face. Your family can also help your audiologist get a better sense of the communication situations that are the most challenging for you, which will aid in your treatment.
- Share your emotions about your hearing loss
The more you share the frustrations and sadness that surround your hearing loss, the closer your relationships with your family will be. Vulnerability is the path to true partnership.
- Break down the stigma
If you are comfortable with your hearing issues, others will be too. Make your hearing loss a normal part of the family dynamic.
- Teach them best practices
Educate family members about what they need to do to help you hear your best. Be as specific as possible so they can better understand your needs and don't resort to yelling or leaning into your ear to talk.
- Invite them to your self-advocacy efforts
Involve your family in activities and volunteer events with your hearing loss community. The more they learn about hearing loss, the better they can understand and support you in your challenges.
- Create a signal for when you didn't hear
Visual signals can be just as effective as asking “What?” and won't interrupt the flow of the conversation. They can also limit the frustration on both sides when you repeatedly ask someone to speak louder.
- Experiment with new technologies
Ask your family to help you test new assistive listening devices to see if they make conversation easier when you're dining out or in other settings with background noise. This can be a fun adventure, especially with kids who tend to be more tech-savvy.
- Bring your sense of humor
Mishearings will occur, so don't take them too seriously. Some can be very funny if you let them be. Keeping a light-hearted attitude can go a long way toward building family support.
The 10 tips are available as a handout that you can share with clients – or put up in the clinic as daily inspiration. Discuss with your clients how the tips might be helpful to facilitate conversations in the home and within families about living well with hearing loss.
The 10 tips are reshared by courtesy of Shari Eberts and the Hearing Journal.