West Palm Beach, Fla — Only 25% of the 36 million Americans with hearing loss have hearing aids, according to the Better Hearing Institute.Those numbers can mean that there will be many miscommunications at holiday gatherings, especially for the elderly who may not have received treatment or assessment for their hearing loss.
Audiologist Dr. Cindy Beyer, senior vice president of HearUSA, Inc, commented in a HearUSA press release that studies have linked hearing loss to stress, frustration, and social isolation. Those feelings can be further intensified at holiday gatherings with families and friends, who may find conversations difficult, further isolating those with hearing loss.
“Hearing loss is often labeled ‘the invisible handicap’ because there are no outward signs of a handicap or limitations,” said Beyer. “As a result, we are unlikely to be aware that accommodations may be necessary to avoid a breakdown in communication.”
Beyer has several suggestions for helping those with hearing impairment during the holiday gatherings. They include:
- Speak clearly and distinctly, but not too fast — and never shout.
- If you are asked to repeat something, do so without raising your voice and appearing annoyed.
- If your comment or question is still not being understood after repetition, reword it. Some words are easier to understand than others.
- In a group situation, be sure the hearing-impaired person is included in the conversation. If not, bring them back in.
- When speaking, look directly at the person and try not to be more than five feet away.
- Your facial expressions, gestures and overall body language are important aids in communicating, so try to be sure you have the listener’s attention and that the room is well lit.
- Conversation is greatly enhanced when there is no distracting background noise from a radio or television. 2
- Dining out? Choose a quiet restaurant. Noisy conversations and the clatter of dishes and tableware in a crowded dining area are barriers to effective communication.
- Ask if there is anything you can do to make communication easier. For example, conversation will be much easier to understand in a room with carpeting and well-upholstered furniture than in a room with tiled floors, high ceilings or wooden furniture.
Finally, Beyer also recommends encouraging the loved one to get treated for their hearing loss. She said, “During this holiday season, I can think of no kinder act than encouraging a loved one or a friend with untreated hearing loss to consider the positive impact hearing aids could have on their lives, and help them arrange for an evaluation by a licensed hearing care practitioner.”