When you want to help someone with hearing loss, where do you begin? In some cases, you might have a close, personal relationship with that person, making it possible to offer your accommodations in an individualized manner. However, when you encounter someone in your community with hearing loss, you might not know where to start. Worse yet, it might not even be clear that the person has hearing loss until midway through a conversation. Once you discover this need, you might not be sure how to step in with accommodations. In other cases, you might have the best intentions to accommodate someone’s needs but find out later that you took the wrong approach. How can you minimize these errors in accommodating hearing loss? Let’s look at a few important steps to follow in the process of offering support to people with hearing loss, whether in your family or in your community.
Ask How You Can Help
The first step in your accommodation process is to ask how you can help. Although this step might seem obvious, it can be difficult and even awkward to take this simple step. If you already know that the person has hearing loss, you can begin by asking what you can do to assist. If you don’t know for sure if a person has hearing loss, you might want to begin by asking if that person is having trouble hearing you. Without putting that person on the spot, you can find a way to open up a conversation about hearing ability. In the moment, it can be difficult to have this conversation, so you might want to find a quiet, peaceful context to ask about hearing ability. Once it is established that the person has difficulty hearing, you can ask directly what you can do to help. Each person is quite different when it comes to accommodations. Whereas one person might want you to enunciate each syllable clearly, another person might find that style of speech to be embarrassing. Take the opportunity as soon as possible to have this conversation about the individual needs for accommodations.
Although an individual conversation about accommodations is the best way to begin, it’s not always possible to have this conversation in the midst of an interaction with a stranger. When you can’t pause to talk about hearing loss, you can fall back on some general principles that will help you communicate. First of all, raising the volume of your voice can be helpful. Don’t overdo it, but make sure you are not mumbling or speaking too quietly. Many people with hearing loss rely on visual cues to complete the communication process. Make sure you are in a direct eyeline when you are speaking, and try not to call out from another room in the house. If the other person can’t understand you, try to rephrase what you have to say rather than directly repeating yourself. This recontextualization gives more meaningful information for the person to decipher. In addition to these conversational accommodations, you can connect this person with resources in the community, as well. Closed captioning is a great way to assist video or audio content in public and private settings. You can even recommend specific technology to assist those with hearing loss, such as emergency alert systems and smartphone apps to provide visual information along with audible cues or notifications.
Accommodation vs. Treatment
Accommodation for hearing loss is one approach, but that’s not the only way to support your loved one or community member. Encouraging treatment for hearing loss gets to the heart of these needs with a deeper solution. When this person gets treatment for hearing loss in the form of hearing aids or other assistive technology that durable solution will be portable to a number of different situations, extending beyond the immediate need for accommodation. You can even offer your direct support in scheduling and attending the hearing test. When you accompany this person through the process of seeking assistance, you will be able to show you care about that person’s deeper needs and that you value communication. All you need to do is offer your support, and our hearing health professionals will guide you through the process.