If your spouse or partner has hearing loss, maybe you've realized that you haven't done as much as you could have to help him or her cope and thrive with limited hearing. January, also known as "the month of resolutions," isn't over yet, so here are some things you can do to support your spouse with hearing loss in the new year:
Learn what it's like
It's well known - and maybe you've experienced it - that hearing loss can put a strain on relationships, causing stress, hurt feelings and frustration over miscommunication. If your spouse has a hearing loss and you sometimes get frustrated, one good thing to do is to learn what it's like for him or her.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, download the app Play it Down. Not only can you use this to test your own hearing, but the app also allows you to play music adjusted to what it would sound like if you have hearing loss. You might be surprised at what you hear!
Practice good communication
When someone has hearing loss, oral communication, a vital function of participating in society and relationships, is negatively affected. But remember that communication does not just rely on verbal skills! Everyone uses gestures and facial expressions to aid in interpreting meaning and messages. As such, one of the most important things you can do when talking with your spouse who has hearing loss is to avoid speaking from another room, face your partner when talking, keep your mouth uncovered - which includes not chewing gum, as it can distort your mouth - and gently get his or her attention before beginning a conversation. If mishaps do occur, here are some communication repair strategies to get back on track:
- Rephrase rather than repeat what you said. Sometimes it will be easier for your spouse to understand if you choose different words.
- Move to a different environment - one with less background noise or better lighting.
- Use simpler sentences, rather than complex sentence construction, which can be hard to follow.
- Make sure to speak clearly and slowly, but naturally. If you raise your voice or emphasize certain sounds, it actually might be more difficult for your spouse to hear and understand you as your lip movements, and the noise may be distorted.
- Use an assistive listening device, like a personal amplifier.
- Provide your spouse with the key word of what you said - write it down or spell it if necessary.
- Don't get frustrated and say "Nevermind, it's not important." That could feel like you're dismissing your partner, as if his or her hearing is not important to you.
Vow to be more patient with your spouse. Even when you're both working hard on communication repair and best tactics, miscommunication is bound to happen. Do your best to laugh it off, then rephrase rather than repeat.
Attend audiologist appointments together
You can lend your support by being involved in your spouse's audiologist appointments, whether he or she is getting hearing retested or seeing the audiologist to inquire about new hearing aids or assistive listening devices. Not only will this show how much you care about his or her hearing, but it will also give you a chance to ask the audiologist any questions you might have about your spouse's hearing loss, as well as help him or her write down vital information and share what you observe about his or her hearing with the audiologist.
Give your input
Another way you can support your spouse is by having an opinion about which new hearing aid features or devices he or she should try. This shows that you're invested in improving communication.
Try aural rehabilitation
Aural rehabilitation is a series of classes that focus on improving hearing and communication for people adjusting to hearing aids and cochlear implants, or just for those who are living with hearing loss. Aural rehab often involves a range of specialists, including physicians, audiologists, vocational counselors, psychologists and speech-language pathologists. Aural rehabilitation can:
- Help people adjust to a family member's hearing loss, including providing communication tips and counseling.
- Assist people with hearing loss in learning how to interpret visual cues and improve speechreading.
- Provide people with tips and tactics for handling conversation.
- Educate someone with hearing loss on his or her legal rights to accommodations in the workplace in academic environments.
- Help people learn how to listen again with cochlear implants and hearing aids.
Keep in mind that your spouse may have extra difficulty hearing when he or she is stressed, tired, upset or sick. Be flexible in having conversations until there's a better time for her or him.