Getting Your Family On Your Hearing Loss Team

It feels like we talk about it all the time. “Please face me so I can hear you,” or “Can you repeat that slower,” but I sometimes wonder if it is sinking in. Objectively, I think my family knows what they need to do to help me hear, but it often slips their mind, or seems unimportant since in many cases, I function quite well. It’s not obvious that I need help, so when I do, they are not always there for me. Until recently. We had a formal family meeting about my hearing loss. It seemed to make a difference. My fingers are crossed that this momentum will continue.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

Hearing loss takes a toll on a family and a marriage. While my family supports me many times, there are other instances where I feel left out to dry with no support and no assistance. That is probably the case for many of us with hearing loss. Since our disability is invisible, and variable — we hear well in certain environments, but not in others — it is easily misunderstood, discounted or ignored.

One Saturday morning, my husband called the family together. “We need to talk about your mother’s hearing loss,” he said, “and how we can do a better job to help her hear.” At first, my kids were annoyed with this. “We talk about this all the time,” they said, “we know what to do.”

“But we need to do better,” he declared. “She is an important part of this family and we love her. It is our responsibility to help her hear.” I was blinking back tears for that part.

We spent some time brainstorming communication best practices to use with people with hearing loss. Things like:

  • Get the person’s attention first before speaking.
  • Make sure your mouth is visible to aid with lipreading.
  • State the subject of the conversation if the topic has shifted.
  • Talk clearly and at a moderate pace.
  • Watch the person for clues as to whether she is hearing you or not. If she doesn’t seem to be understanding, speak louder, slower or rephrase.
  • Keep your volume up, even in quiet places.

Truth be told, it was a little bit repetitive of things we have discussed before, but the formality of the conversation made it different. More serious and more memorable. I have noticed a difference already in my family’s behavior, especially in monitoring me to see if I am understanding in the moment. Let’s hope it sticks.

Readers, is your family on your hearing loss team?

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26 thoughts on “Getting Your Family On Your Hearing Loss Team

  1. I was diagnosed 3 months ago with mild to moderate loss. I’ve adjusted well to my hearing aids so now I think my family lives in confusion. I hear fine until I don’t is a hard thing for them to get used to. More time passing and getting it into their conscious and unconscious awareness will help I hope.

    • It can be confusing when we seem to hear well in certain situations, but not in others. Keep reminding them and hopefully it will become more second nature. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    • I was just thinking this same thing Toni. I’ve taken to advocating by showing my family my audiograms and explaining the real life significance of the numbers. It may have backfired a little because they show my hearing in a perfect sound environment and I haven’t figured out how to get that across to them yet. But baby steps right. Shari, thanks for the hope that some families do pay attention and try.

  2. All good tips for family and friends— AND for us hearing-impaired, too! By practicing what we want others to practice (face them when you speak, etc.), we model and reinforce the behavior we seek. Sometimes that’s more easily said than done.
    In my own case, I was not in the habit of putting my hearing aids in first thing in the morning. I would groggily get some coffee and once the coffee began to take effect, I might start a conversation wth my husband. It was not until he responded that I’d realize I couldn’t hear him. Then I’d say, “wait, wait, while I get my ears…” to which, understandably he would say, “don’t talk to me unless you can hear me respond!” So now, although I don’t always remember to, I try to put my hearing aids in first thing. Being conscious of what it takes to communicate is a two-way street and ongoing quest!

  3. Although I know you mean it, by extension, the fact is that many (a majority of?) older HOH people live alone. I, for instance, live in a senior apartment building where the majority of people (55+) are single. The human dynamics of getting a bunch of non-family people to meet you half-way is an even bigger challenge. There we are all called upon to double-advocate for ourselves, as we don’t have a partner to help. It’s amazingly hard to get hearing people, of any age, to comprehend what it’s like to not be able to hear normally, and to extend themselves. Thanks for this good refresher.

    • So, so true!
      Please just don’t get it.
      that’s why I show them youtube videos, which demonstrate what it feels like to have “mild”, “moderate” or “severe”hearing loss.

      Gets their attention and helps them really SENSE what it feels like.

      I’ve also showed the youtube to my family and to my HOH support group, which I started, in the country where I live (not it USA)!

  4. Hi

    Finally after years of trying I think I’m there! other half now faces me when speaking (hooray!).

    Isn’t the problem though that deafness/hearing loss and it’s effects on those of us that have it is still not understood by those who don’t, both in our families and the wider world?

    Yes, often in the right listening conditions for us a combination of hearing aids and lip reading help us to understand what is being said, but in poorer listening conditions, loud background noise etc, we might not.


  5. Way to go, Shari! As always, you hit the nail on the head.
    We can try to get the rest of the world to try to understand how we feel and what we perceive/sense.
    But, getting the family on board is really where it all starts!

  6. Really good article. It’s just really hard to get across to everybody what hearing loss is like. You can feel a bit of a nag having to remind everybody that you can not hear in different environments (or even the same environment sometimes). Please keep the articles coming they are a welcome relief. 😁

  7. Thank you for this article. It is so needed and so true. I think that people with hearing loss will always have this difficulty, as this is a hearing world. People with normal hearing take it for granted, many times.

  8. I love reading & rereading this article!
    However my family aren’t the ones I have a hard time getting to understand my hearing loss, but my coworkers. I work in a physical therapy clinic, so it understandably gets rowdy inside, often! My hearing difficulties aren’t in the high pitch ranges, but low pitch (reverse slope loss) which causes issues particularly when it is louder inside. And my loss causes me to lose certain consonants & enunciations in conversation, so I often hear something totally different than what may be actually said. I don’t get the frustrated responses, but the laughter. Often I can laugh at myself as a lot of times it is rather silly the things I hear or things I miss, however it gets tiring when it becomes hilarious to those around me that I cannot hear. How do you all cope with this? I haven’t figured out how to respond without coming across that I am annoyed (which I am at times). I am a younger person (30), so I think sometimes this causes those around me to find my situation funnier or more bewildering to everyone else than it is at times. Any suggestions would be helpful!!

    • That is a tough situation. Sometimes it is helpful to laugh at yourself — as you say some of the mishearings can be very funny — but sometimes enough is also enough. Perhaps you could try talking to people one on one explaining that sometimes it hurts your feelings or makes you feel bad when they laugh at your hearing loss. Start with someone you are close to and see how that goes. Then you can talk to others. Hope this helps.

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