Help for a Loved One

Risk Factors Associated with Hearing Loss

Partner/Spouse/Caretakers Role

  • Partners play an instrumental role in making people aware of their hearing loss.
  • Partners expect the person with hearing loss to take steps to minimize its impact, namely to demonstrate a degree of acceptance of their hearing loss and to wear their hearing aids. The person with the hearing problem does not always do this.
  • Partners take basic steps to communicate more effectively with the person with hearing loss and are a valuable source of support. However, they find it difficult to understand the nature of hearing loss and how it is affected by factors such as stress, fatigue and background noise.
  • Partners tend to take one of two approaches to provide support. They either work on acquiring hearing aids or equipment to improve their partner’s hearing loss or they observe their partner, stepping in when they feel they were having difficulty hearing.
  • Partners sometimes take steps to protect their partner’s image with people they didn’t know well, namely to ensure that they weren’t perceived by others as rude.

Impact of hearing loss

Hearing loss has a limited impact on shared chores, although in general the hearing partner does most telephoning. In most cases neither partner resists this; however, occasionally, hearing partners resist taking this on when they are pushing for the person with hearing loss to retain as much independence as possible.

Couples report a change in the content and nature of communication, they describe these aspects of communication as small but important, such as reflection on events, can be lost. In some cases, this led to a sense of isolation in both partners.

Hearing loss can cause frustration for both partners. In some circumstances, hearing loss leads to couples talking less or over each other, causing friction which will sometimes spill over into ongoing resentment.

Both people with hearing loss and their partners report feelings of loneliness. However, hearing partners, in particular, speak of feeling lonely and feel they were missing out on companionship.

People with hearing loss and their partners often curtail social activities. This illustrates how the couple, not just the individual with hearing loss, withdraw from social interaction. This also suggests that couples can become lonely despite the partners interacting with each other.

Participants report mixed experiences of how their children adjust to their hearing loss.

Companion Hearing Inventory

These question can be answered with YES SOMETIMES or NO.
3 or more YES answers or more than 5 SOMETIMES answers indicates there may be a problem.

1. Have you observed a situation where a hearing problem caused him/her to feel embarrassed when meeting new people?

2. Do you feel a hearing problem causes him/her to feel frustrated when talking to members of his/her family?

3. Have you noticed that he/she has difficulty hearing when someone speaks in a whisper?

4. Do you believe he/she is burdened by a hearing problem?

5. Are you concerned that a hearing problem causes him/her difficulty when visiting friends, relatives or neighbors?

6. Do you think that a hearing problem causes him/her to attend large group situations less often than they would like?

7. Have you ever felt that a hearing problem causes him/her to have arguments with family members? Yes Sometimes No

8. Have you noticed that a hearing problem causes him/her difficulty when listening to TV or radio?

9. Are you concerned that any difficulty with his/her hearing limits or hampers their personal or social life?

10. Have you observed that a hearing problem causes him/her difficulty when in a restaurant with relatives or friends?

How to talk to someone with a hearing problem

Successful communication requires the efforts of all people involved in a conversation. Even when the person with hearing loss utilizes hearing aids and active listening strategies, it is crucial that others involved in the communication process consistently use good communication strategies.

Try some of these things:

  • Face the person directly, on the same level and in good light whenever possible. Position yourself so that the light is shining on the speaker’s face, not in the eyes of the listener.
  • Do not talk from another room. Not being able to see each other when talking is a common reason people have difficulty understanding what is said.
  • Speak clearly, slowly, distinctly, but naturally, without shouting or exaggerating mouth movements. Shouting distorts the sound of speech and may make speech reading more difficult.
  • Say the person’s name or get their attention before beginning a conversation. This gives the listener a chance to focus attention and reduces the chance of missing words at the beginning of the conversation.
  • Be aware of possible distortion of sounds a hearing-impaired person may encounter. They may hear your voice, but still may have difficulty understanding some words.
  • If the listener has difficulty understanding a particular phrase or word, try to find a different way of saying the same thing, rather than repeating the original words over and over.
  • If you are giving specific information – such as time, place or phone numbers – to someone who has a hearing problem, have them repeat the specifics back to you. Many numbers and words sound alike.
  • Recognize that everyone, especially the hard-of-hearing, has a harder time hearing and understanding when stressed, ill or tired.
  • Take turns speaking and avoid interrupting other speakers.
  • Avoid talking too rapidly or using sentences that are too complex. Slow down a little, pause between sentences or phrases, and wait to make sure you have been understood before going on.
  • Keep your hands away from your face while talking. If you are eating, chewing, vaping, etc. while talking, your speech will be more difficult to understand. Hey hipster-Beards and mustaches can also interfere with the ability to lip read
  • If the listener hears better in one ear than the other, try to make a point of remembering which ear is better so that you will know where to position yourself.
  • Most people with hearing loss have greater difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise. Try to minimize background noise when talking.
  • Some people with hearing loss are sensitive to loud sounds. This may not make sens to you, but, reduced tolerance for loud sounds is not uncommon. Avoid situations where there will be loud sounds when possible.
  • Acquaint the listener with the general topic of the conversation. Avoid sudden changes of topic. If the subject is changed, tell the person what you are talking about now. In a group setting, repeat questions or key facts before continuing with the discussion.
  • Whenever possible, provide pertinent information in writing or send as a text. Things such as directions, schedules, work assignments, etc.
  • Pay attention to the listener. A puzzled look may indicate misunderstanding. Tactfully ask the person if they understood you, or ask leading questions so you know your message got across.

Hearing Health Care Professionals

There are three types of hearing health providers

  • Hearing Aid Dispensers/Hearing Instrument Specialist
    In California an HIS or dispenser must have the minimum of a high school diploma and successfully prepared and passed a state licenser examination. Dispensers are licensed to administer a hearing test for the purposes of fitting hearing aids on adult patients. Typically dispensers spend a minimum of one year preparing to pass their licensing examination. Additionally, dispensers are required to take 12 hours of continuing education every year to maintain their license.
  • Audiologists
    have at least a Master’s Degree in Audiology. Most audiologists also have Doctorates in their respective field. An audiologist is licensed to test and treat newborns through adults and people with special needs. They are trained for diagnostic medical evaluation of the patient’s auditory and vestibular system.
  • ENT Surgeons
    ENT stands for ear, nose, and throat. An ENT is a physician who specializes is conditions involving these three areas. The technical name is an otolaryngologist. Otolaryngologist treat diseases of the ear, nose, throat, base of the skull, and for the surgical management of cancers and benign tumors of the head and neck. ENT doctors generally do not treat hearing loss.