June 30th, 2010 at 1:11 am
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Tips from Those Experiencing Hearing Loss

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Just because I have 40 years of experience working with people of all ages with hearing loss, does not mean that I always do the right thing. In this fast paced world, we have a tendency to go on automatic pilot, not necessarily assessing the situation and the needs of the person we are talking with.  

Something I am told so often from those with a hearing loss is that when we do increase our volume, a person feels we are yelling at them or that our voice is too loud. I will never forget an experience earlier in my home health career when I had a client with a severe hearing problems and I needed to speak much louder than usual. When I arrived at my next patient’s home I just kept my loudness at the same level and the person got annoyed, reminding me they were not deaf. Since I did not speak to anyone in between, unfortunately I did not make any volume adjustment. When I told her my story we laughed and she shared that she feels people often because she is older they need to yell for her to hear them. Ask the person if you are speaking loud enough or what else you could do to make it easier for them to hear you.

My mom was a person who was very articulate, good with words and always spoke distinctly, never quickly. We sometimes joked that given a different era she might have been a natural as a speech therapist. So many of us have not had the early childhood experience my mom had and I feel it really shaped some of the habits she established. She had a childhood friend who she described as nearly deaf so in order for them to communicate more effectively, she used what worked best and I believe these became her lifelong habits.

When she was older and her hearing started to fail, she was frustrated with how fast people spoke. When I would get excited about something I was sharing, she needed to remind me to slow down. When I do presentations, I encourage the participants of an older audience to let me know if they cannot hear me during my talk. In a program for a church group on a sensitive personal story I was sharing about Alzheimer’s disease my voice dropped and someone asked me to please start over so they could hear what I had said, which I was happy to do.

Checking in with someone with a hearing loss periodically to see what works, what doesn’t, what frustrates them and how you can help is a important step in establishing confidence for that person to handle other situations. Article with additional information: Managing a Life with Hearing Loss.

How you think about a problem is more important than the problem itself -
so always think positively
Norman Vincent Peale

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