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7 Smart Tips for Communicating with Someone Who Has Low Hearing

Submitted by Lauren Watral, MSW Raleigh Geriatric Care Manager

Does your loved one seem to ignore what you say half the time? Maybe you’re not being heard. Fully one-third of adults over age 65 and about half of those over age 85 have significant hearing loss.

To improve your odds of getting your message across:

1. Realize that you don’t have to SHOUT! It’s kind of condescending, when you think about it, which starts communication off on the wrong note. Shouting also actually makes enunciation harder to understand.

2. Deliver your message face-to-face, rather than from across the room or from the next room. We all use lip-reading to some extent to help us hear.

3. Turn off the TV or radio to eliminate background noise. Even the low hum of the dishwasher or a leaf blower outside can muffle your words.

4. Don’t rely on hearing aids working perfectly. If you find that someone with a hearing aid is having trouble hearing well or isn’t using it, ask questions to find out why. Is it uncomfortable? Is ambient sound interfering?

5. Especially with someone who has dementia, avoid talking while coming up from behind him or her. You may not be heard until you’re right upon the person, causing your loved one to be startled and flustered — and not comprehend a word you’ve said.

6. If the person has vision problems, ask the eye doctor just what his or her range of vision is. For some people, there’s little peripheral vision (on the sides), so you must be positioned squarely in front to be seen and understood.

7. Speak slowly and clearly. You don’t have to dumb down your speech to robot tones, but try not to rush through your sentences, either. You’ll be more easily heard by any listener, of any age or health condition.

~Paula Spencer Scott

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