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Tips for Family Members

If a member of your family has a hearing loss, it affects everyone. Here are some suggestions and frequently asked questions that may help you and your family member communicate better.

Should I shout?
No, this distorts your voice. Face your family member and talk in a normal or slightly louder speaking voice.

What about speaking from different rooms?
Your family member probably cannot hear you, and most likely cannot understand you when you are at a distance, so please do not talk to your family member from another room. Remember to get his or her attention before you start talking. Even individuals with normal hearing may have trouble understanding speech from another room.

Can people with hearing loss tell the direction of sound?
Some hearing-impaired people cannot tell the direction of a sound or voice. This is especially true when the hearing ability of each ear is different, creating an imbalance. When your family member calls you and asks “Where are you?” state the specific room instead of answering “here”.

How should I repeat myself when I am not understood?
A hearing-impaired person has difficulty understanding words. Your voice may be audible, but separate words may sound blurred. Rhyming words such as: cat/cap, bread/thread, etc. are extremely difficult to distinguish from each other. When your family member does not understand you the first time you say something, do not repeat the same words. Instead, rephrase the sentence, or choose a different word, so that you may be more easily understood.

How does hearing loss affect the volume of sound?
A hearing loss changes the relative loudness of sound. Your family member may not hear things that are soft to you. Sounds that are comfortable to you may be soft for your family member. Loud or sudden noises, however, may be more uncomfortable or unsettling than for you.

Why does hearing loss cause one to speak louder?
Hearing loss can make it difficult for your family member to judge the volume of his/her own voice. Let your family member know when his or her voice may be too loud or too soft.

How do room acoustics affect someone with hearing loss?
Some rooms have better acoustics than others. Empty rooms with hard walls may cause speech to echo, thus making it more difficult to hear and understand what is being said. Your family member also may have difficulty hearing outside, where the sound is dispersed in the air or if wind noise affects the use of hearing aids.

Does fatigue or illness affect hearing?
Yes, your family member may not hear as well as usual when tired or ill. This is because it may be difficult to put as much effort into attempting to understand speech.

Should lip-reading be used?
Even if you do not have formal training in lip-reading, we all utilize visual cues from the speaker to understand what is being said. This is by watching the speaker’s face and picking up on the visual cues. Try to converse in well-lit rooms. If glasses are needed, make sure they are used.

What about background noise?
Background noise almost always interferes with the understanding of speech. For people with hearing loss, it probably is the most difficult situation in which to hear. Try to reduce the level of avoidable background noise when conversing. When in a restaurant, the person with a hearing loss should sit with their back against the wall; this helps reduce the interference of background noise. Also, sit at a table away from the kitchen or heavy traffic area. Most hearing aids work best at reducing background noise if the wearer is directly facing their conversation partner, with any noise sources behind them.