Communication and socialization are the glue that holds families, neighborhoods and communities together. Older people who have difficulty hearing and talking to others tend to shy away from social situations.
Have you ever found yourself annoyed or impatient when you’ve had to repeat everything you say three or four times? It’s frustrating for you, but for just a minute try to put yourself in their place. Hearing loss is not a given. Not every senior is hard of hearing, but it does happen often enough that you know what I am talking about.
Have you ever wondered if there was anything you could do to make it easier to communicate with a hearing impaired loved one? The most important thing to remember is that loss of hearing does not mean loss of intelligence, so don’t treat mom/dad like a child. Hearing devices aside, lets approach conversation from another perspective. You know about lip reading, but even that is a little more difficult than you might think. You can’t just assume that because you are speaking slowly that they understand what you are saying. You have to actually learn how lip read and how to lip talk.
You can take a class together or sit down in front of the computer and look up Lip Reading. There are dozens of sites with videos and other tips that will teach the two of you how to speech-read. Work together. Start by creating a talking/learning environment:
- Reduce or eliminate background noise (turn off the televisions or radios).
- Sit where your face will be in the light, making lip reading easier.
- Face the person you are talking to directly.
- Remember that if you have your hands in front of your mouth they can’t see your lips.
- Part of lip reading involves reading facial expressions and body language
Lip reading goes beyond just speaking slowly or trying to decipher individual words, it is a whole process. No more yelling and shouting and feeling frustrated. Sit down together, face to face, and speak clearly in a normal tone of voice. Keep words and sentences short and practice often. If asked to repeat; repeat once and then rephrase. If what you are saying is important, provide an alternate format (such as writing it down in large letters). Family members and friends of people who are hearing impaired should all learn to lip read in order to appreciate the entire process. It’s not hard, but it isn’t as easy as you might think either. Go ahead and practice with a hearing friend before you pass judgment. What do you think?