Do you love someone with hearing loss? With almost 50 million Americans and 360 million people worldwide with disabling hearing loss, chances are that you do. Supporting them can be confusing — you may not fully understand the challenges they face as someone with hearing loss, or they may not want to discuss it or ask for help. Even if they deny it, deep down they still want your love and support.
Loving someone with hearing loss requires work — there are conversation best practices to incorporate, hearing loss exhaustion to work around and loud venues to avoid. There are bouts of frustration and sadness to support people through, and ongoing education about new hearing aid and assistive listening device technologies to learn. It can require extra effort, but when you love somebody, it is worth it.
Show Someone With Hearing Loss That You Love Them
How can you show the people in your life with hearing loss that you value them? Here are my suggestions. Please share your ideas in the comments.
1. Make conversations easier.
Use conversation best practices like facing the person and getting his attention first. Don’t speak to him from another room or with your mouth covered. Do this consistently and before you are asked or reminded for what feels like the umpteenth time. Voluntary compliance is a true sign of caring.
2. Check to see if they understood.
Group settings, cocktail parties and loud restaurants make it hard for everyone to understand speech, let alone someone with hearing loss. When in a challenging environment, glance over at your friend to see if they look confused and if they do, do a quick repeat to catch them up. This shows you care and allows them to skip asking “What” every once in a while.
3. Let them pick the restaurant.
Most people with hearing loss have a few go-to restaurants that work for them. Let them pick the venue or suggest you meet for a meal in the quiet of someone’s home. Remind them that their company is more important than the dynamic ambiance of the hot new restaurant.
4. Tell them that you care.
Hearing loss can be isolating, leaving people feeling lonely, left out and sad. Reach out to the people with hearing loss that you love and let them know you care. Seek them out for social activities that work for you both. Encourage them to come to the party or other gathering even if it will be hard to hear and help them find a way to enjoy it.
5. Use closed captions when watching TV.
Some people find the closed captions to be a nuisance, particularly if they cover the score or other stats during a sporting event. Making sure the closed captions are always on helps the person with hearing loss feel included and part of the fun without needing to make any special requests.
6. Encourage them to use assistive listening devices at the movies, theater and other places.
Help them enquire into the options ahead of time so things go smoothly at the venue. Remove any stigma associated with using these devices by being an active participant in their acquisition. Getting the devices for them removes one self-advocacy battle they have to fight that day.
7. Laugh at the mis-hearings.
Hearing loss can be very funny if you let it be. Treat hearing loss as just one part of them, like a distaste for spicy food or a terrible sense of direction. Everyone has something that challenges them in their everyday life. Remove the stigma by treating hearing loss as just one of those obstacles we all face.
8. Protect your hearing.
Show that you understand the difficulties associated with hearing loss by protecting your own hearing and encouraging those around you to do so as well. Wear hearing protection at concerts, on planes, and other loud places. Valuing your hearing shows respect for those who struggle with their own.
Readers, how do you show love for the people with hearing loss in your life?