You love your grandchildren — their smiles, the way they look like their parents did when they were young, and their exuberance — but sometimes, they are very hard to hear. Children have a way of swallowing their words, or slurring them together, and typically have softer and higher pitched voices. That is, when they are not shrieking with delight or terror. Their way of speaking makes it hard to understand them under any conditions, but with hearing loss it can be even tougher, especially with age related hearing loss, which tends to impact the higher frequencies most.
Hearing loss is no reason to miss out on the fun and important relationships you desire with your grandchildren. Teaching them the best way to speak with you will take patience and repetition, but it is worth it. Share these tips with them in an age appropriate way each time you see them. Soon it will become second nature.
Ten Tips For Better Conversations With Your Grandchildren
1. Tell them about your hearing loss. The first step is letting them know that it is hard for you to hear them. You can show them your hearing aids and explain that your ears don’t work as well as theirs do. For younger children that might be enough of an explanation, but older children will be interested in the scientific aspects. Visit websites like KidsHealth or Dangerous Decibels with them to explore how hearing works and the causes of hearing loss.
2. Ask them to get your attention first. Explain that it is much easier for you to hear them if they get your attention first. That way you can concentrate on what they are saying and have a better chance of understanding the topic of the conversation. Knowing the context can help a lot when you need to figure out harder-to-hear words.
3. Make sure they are facing you. Explain how you use their lips to help you hear. Tell them, “If I can’t see you, I can’t hear you.” My family and I sometimes play lipreading games to help them understand how I use lipreading to hear. They can be a lot of fun
4. Keep background noise low and the lights bright. Ask them to turn down the music while you talk or to move away from the air conditioning unit to minimize competing sounds. Well-lit spaces also make it easier to lipread.
5. Teach them to take turns speaking. Children can be excited to speak and don’t know to wait their turn, but it is probably difficult for you to hear more than one speaker at a time. Remind them to take turns speaking. This is good manners in any event, and will make it much easier for you to follow the conversation.
6. Ask them to speak at a normal volume and pace. Explain that normal speech is easier to lipread, while shouting or excessively slow speech is harder for you to understand. Clarity of the sounds is the key, so ask them to speak each word as clearly as they can rather than slurring them together. Sometimes asking them to pretend they are speaking to an audience or are onstage can help them understand what you mean.
7. If you miss something, ask for clarification. Rather than just saying “What?” or tuning out, ask them to rephrase or spell a difficult word (depending on their age). Or ask them to point to the object in question. Repeat the part of the sentence you heard and ask them to fill in the missing pieces. Say what you think you heard — sometimes the mishearings can be very funny if you let them be.
8. Get down to their level. Sit on the floor with them, or ask them to join you on your lap. Interact with their toys along with them. The more engaged you are with them in activities, the more willing they will be to make the extra effort to communicate.
9. Maintain a good energy level. Communication takes work, especially when you have hearing loss. Make sure you are well rested before a visit. Eat healthy foods, try to exercise regularly and be sure to get enough sleep. Don’t be afraid to take breaks if your energy is lagging.
10. Keep your sense of humor. It can be frustrating, but remember the goal is to connect with your grandchildren, so why not laugh at the misunderstandings rather than being upset by them. Children are used to making mistakes and learning new words, and they will not judge you for your errors. If you are at ease with your hearing loss, they will be too.
Hearing loss can make communication difficult, but by following these tips and maintaining a healthy attitude, it does not have to stand in the way of meaningful and lasting relationships with your grandchildren. Don’t let a single moment with them go to waste.
Readers, do you talk to your grandchildren about your hearing loss?
This post first appeared on thirdAge.
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12 thoughts on “How To Talk To Your Grandchildren About Hearing Loss”
My grandchildren are 12, 10, 8, 5, and one on the way. I have used most of your strategies with them, and in the last year it has started to reap the rewards. You do have to be patient with them, but I find they have the most patience with me. Especially the youngest. They have been more diligent lately, because my understanding is only around 10%, and I will be getting a Cochlear Implant soon. They are very excited about it. One thing they have made me much more aware of, is that I tell them to look at me, but often I look away when they are talking. I guess I get distracted by other noises. So they will stop talking and take my face in their hands to direct it to them. It is very sweet and it has brought my attention to how often I do that in all conversations.
So lovely. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am glad you are taking the time to explain things to them. Good luck with the cochlear implant!
Susan, how good it is that you have access to your grandchildren, Obviously, there is patience and love going and coming. Your upcoming implant will, I assure you, give you better hearing and understanding. it will take some training and getting used to, but it is a huge step. I am 7 months post activation and am enjoying a level of hearing I never dreamed of. Good luck.
I started taking an ASL class and some of these tips are so familiar! Good luck with your implant and your grandchildren.
Another wonderful post. I do many of these. Cute story..I once told my youngest that I was so sorry I can’t always understand what you are saying(he has a little bit of a speech impediment at the age of 4) so I showed him my hearing aid and told him this is why I can’t always understand you. So we were playing a few days after that and I had to ask him to repeat something and he just smiled and said, “oh that’s right, you have that thing in your ear.” It really made an impact. Kids do hear what you say.
Great story! Thanks for sharing.
Oh thank you for making it so clear. My husband’s hearing loss is confusing to the grands.
Glad it helps! Kids can understand so much more than we expect.
Yes! Even though I’m only twelve years old, I have a three year old cousin, an one year old cousin and one on the way! This will help me with them. Thanks!
Great! Thanks for reading!