ASHA Offers Tips for Families of the 48 Million Americans With Hearing Loss
As families prepare to come together for Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is offering suggestions for ways to help loved ones with hearing loss more fully participate in these celebrations. Although holiday gatherings are meant to be joyous times for connecting with relatives and friends, for people with hearing difficulties, these occasions can often feel isolating.
More than 48 million Americans have hearing loss. Left untreated in adults, hearing loss is associated with poorer quality of life as well as an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia, depression, falls, and other serious conditions. Unfortunately, many adults with hearing loss do not seek treatment for years or even decades—if ever.
To help family members with hearing difficulties around the holiday table, ASHA advises the following:
- Reduce background noise. Competing noise from the television or radio can make it more difficult to hear.
- Take turns while talking. It can be challenging to follow the conversation when multiple people are speaking at once. Avoid talking when someone else is already speaking; take turns! Encourage everyone to adopt this practice.
- Speak clearly, but don’t shout. Louder isn’t necessarily clearer—and nobody likes to be yelled at when they’re trying to enjoy themselves.
- Face your loved one directly as you speak. Don’t turn your back on your conversation partner or shout from another room. People often need to see your lips and facial expressions to understand what you’re saying.
- Use good lighting. A dim room will limit the visual cues (e.g., mouth movements) that people with hearing difficulties often use to help them decipher what someone is saying.
- Be patient. Try not to get annoyed if you must repeat your message. If someone doesn’t understand you the first time, rephrase what you said. Don’t give up on communicating!
- Seat guests strategically. Arrange the dinner table with conversation in mind. Seat the person with hearing difficulty next to someone who will help keep them involved.
What Else Can You Do to Help?
Spouses and partners, adult children, and friends can all play a key role in supporting people with hearing difficulties. Here are some ways you can help:
- Learn the signs of hearing loss. These signs include raising the TV volume beyond what’s comfortable for others, frequently requiring speech to be repeated, and seeming irritable or withdrawn.
- Encourage loved ones to seek help. A person might not think their hearing is that bador that they’re getting by just fine. But many people underestimate their level of hearing trouble and how it’s affecting other aspects of their lives. Be gentle but persistent. Let them know you’re concerned, that treatment can improve their lives immensely, and that you can help them.
- Share trusted resources. ASHA offers information on its website and through its Act Now on Hearing. Information is also available from the Hearing Loss Association of America. To find a certified audiologist in your area for a hearing evaluation, visit www.asha.org/profind.
- Provide continued support. Denial, anger, fear, and loneliness are just some of the emotions that people may experience when first diagnosed with hearing loss. Be a source of support. Respect their feelings, help them connect with an audiologist, assist them with insurance and other paperwork as needed, and accompany them to appointments.
For more information, visit www.asha.org/public/hearing/.