Better relationships through the Communication Partners tools

By Clint McLean

February 14th is met with anxious anticipation by some, and trepidation by others. But regardless of how we feel about it, Valentine’s Day causes many people to think of love lost, found, and enduring. Communication plays a significant role in whether love thrives or dies. And people with hearing loss and their partners face communication difficulties that others do not, adding an extra challenge to relationships. The Ida Institute has developed a free suite of tools to improve communication between people with hearing loss and their communication partners. The tools help hearing care professionals involve communication partners in the rehabilitation process, allowing them to better address their clients’ communication challenges in a holistic way. 

Third-party disability
As a consequence of their significant other having hearing loss, primary communication partners sometimes experience third-party disability, which is defined by the WHO as the disability of family members due to the health condition of their significant other. Of course, primary communication partners can also be parents, children, siblings or even a best friend. 

Third-party disability can impact social interactions, emotional wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Communication partners report feelings of frustration and uncertainty and are prone to depression, detachment, and marital discontent. But research shows that by involving communication partners in the hearing care journey, both parties can experience improved quality of life and that rehabilitation outcomes can be greatly improved. 

That’s why it is crucial for hearing care professionals to involve clients’ key communication partners in the rehabilitation process. Ida’s suite of Communication Partners tools guides people with hearing loss, their communication partners, and hearing care professionals in managing hearing loss through a more complete picture of the clients’ needs and greater support from communication partners.

See the Communication Partners tools on our website.

The Communication Rings
The Communication Rings enable clients to pinpoint the people who make up their social networks and identify the frequency and potential challenges of communicating with them. Hearing care professionals can use the tool with clients to raise their awareness about communication relationships and facilitate discussion on rehabilitation goals.

  • Step 1: Identifying social networks

The tool involves a series of circles in which the client is asked to place the people from their social network, rating them according to their level of importance. The exercise encourages the client to consider how their hearing loss impacts these relationships.  

  • Step 2: Addressing communication disruptions

Next, the client is encouraged to identify environments where they are likely to encounter the various communication partners and consider how successful the given communication is. This helps hearing care professionals achieve a comprehensive understanding of the elements that are central to the client and propose suitable rehabilitation measures.  

  • Step 3: Involving partners

In some instances, when the relationship between the person with hearing loss and the communication partner is challenged, it might be helpful to ask the partner to also complete the exercise. This will remind both parties just how important successful communication is to their general wellbeing.

The People I Talk To
The People I Talk To is an interactive, online version of the Communication Rings which can be shared with clients before appointments, allowing them to reflect on their communication partnerships beforehand.

Goal Sharing for Partners
Goal Sharing for Partners is a step-by-step guide developed to facilitate discussions between clients and their key communication partner, helping them to:
•    Acknowledge the hearing loss and articulate how it affects them
•    Express their feelings and perspectives
•    Recognize that successful communication requires a joint effort
•    Establish realistic communication goals and identify the needed steps

The Communication Partner Journey 
The Communication Partner Journey offers a visual representation of the typical stages a communication partner goes through. The tool allows hearing care professionals to understand, explore and map the wide range of feelings the communication partner may be experiencing. The goal is to facilitate a better awareness of the partner’s perspective and help both the client and the partner grasp how they can be a valuable support.