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How to Interact with a Senior Who Has Hearing Issues

Helen Keller once said: “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”

As we age, our ears lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds, including many consonant sounds—low-pitched vowels are the last to be affected. As a result, many elderly people who can hear you will say, “I can hear you, but I cannot understand you,” because speech is difficult for them to comprehend.  Some seniors’ hearing loss is related to military experience, a job they may have held in the past or an accident earlier in their life, but for many, the cause is presbycusis, a sensorineural hearing loss condition brought on by the ear’s natural aging process.

Communication is, of course, hampered by hearing loss. Seniors cannot properly respond to something they have not heard. It can be a frustrating and anxiety-provoking experience for all concerned. Even simple pleasures like chatting with friends, playing bridge, attending church, going to the theater, or watching television can become challenging or impossible.

As their hearing becomes worse, seniors may withdraw and isolate themselves. For your aging loved one’s sake, the best thing you can do is learn how to interact with the hearing impaired.

Successful communication requires the efforts of all people involved in a conversation. Even when the person with hearing loss utilizes hearing aids and active listening strategies, it is crucial that others involved consistently use good communication strategies, including the following:

Reduce Distractions When Speaking

Noises like music, television, air conditioners, dishwashers and other people talking in the same room can all interfere with a senior’s ability to hear clearly. Either turn off the competing background noise or move away from it, so that your voice can more easily be heard by the senior with the hearing problem.

Speak at a Moderate Rate

Speak at a slower pace and pause after each sentence. This makes it possible for their brain to interpret what is being said because the aging process slows down the brain’s ability to process information.

Get Their Attention Before You Speak

If their attention is diverted, it can be challenging for a senior with hearing loss to hear and understand you. Get your senior loved one’s attention before speaking. You can do this by stepping into their line of sight, gently waving your hand in their direction, or lightly tapping their shoulder—but be careful not to startle them.

Speak Clearly and Accurately

Face your loved one and speak clearly, but avoid speaking loudly—the same goes for the tone of your voice. Some elderly people with hearing loss due to age benefit from hearing someone speak with a slightly raised voice but without shouting. Consonants should also be pronounced carefully.

Be Patient

This is perhaps the most important step of all. Coping with hearing loss needs to be a cooperative effort between you and your senior loved one. If you start to lose patience, take a moment to breathe deeply and imagine how challenging it must be for them. Remember that they want to be able to listen, understand and participate in this conversation just as much as you do. There will inevitably be misunderstandings and awkward situations, but try to keep things lighthearted and carry on with the conversation.

Reach out to Oasis Senior Advisors for more information on how to help your aging loved one. Contact us today by calling 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or filling out this online form.

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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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