By Amanda Holmes

Hearing loss is something that is not easily understood. It’s not as black and white as “he/she is doesn’t listen to me”. Tempers flare when you feel like your spouse or parent is choosing not to listen to you, even though you’ve asked the same question three times; trust me, it happens to everyone! In fact, there is a difference between hearing and understanding.

When someone recognizes that you are speaking to them, that is hearing. When they comprehend what you are saying, that is understanding. There are a lot of different parts to the ear; the main ones being the outer (what we see on the outside to the eardrum) the middle (the eardrum, aka the tympanic membrane, and the little bones, known as the malleus, the incus, and the stapes), to the inner ( cochlea; our balance center and auditory nerve). When someone is not understanding what you are saying to them, that has to do with the inner ear. Inside the inner ear there are little hair cells that are stimulated, which sends signals via the auditory nerve to the brain. Unfortunately, what happens over time for most of us, is that the little hair cells become damaged or broken. This is what affects our ability to understand.

There is no cure for this type of hearing loss, but here are some tips for communicating with someone who has it:

  • Stop yelling! Most of the time, the volume of what you are saying has nothing to do with it. Making it louder does not increase the clarity. Try asking your questions another way.
  • Get their attention before you start talking. When they are facing you, they have a much better chance of understanding what you are saying.
    Try not to talk through walls or doors. Solid objects dampen the power of sound waves and make them harder to recognize.
  • Get their hearing checked. If they don’t have hearing aids, talk to a professional about what could be beneficial. There have been significant improvements with technology in the last ten years. If they have hearing aids, and are still struggling, talk to your hearing professional about an updated hearing test, adjustments, and counseling. It won’t be perfect, but ask if it can be improved.
  • Most importantly, be patient. As frustrating as it is for you, it is isolating for discouraging for them. Take a breath and slow down a little bit. And remember, you love this person!

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