12 Tips for Communicating When Grandma Has Hearing Loss

affordable home care services for seniors home help for the elderly home care service senior citizen care for older people at home caregivers non medical senior care taking care of elderly parentsIt’s a quiet Friday in the office.  The phones aren’t ringing.  The door isn’t opening.  No one is even searching through file drawers.  And then, a screaming voice booms out, “Hello, Inez!  How are you today?” as if she were leading a marching band instead of conversing on the phone.  Despite the sudden break in peace, however, no one is taken off guard.  After all, in providing elderly home assistance, we are accustomed to the needs of clients with hearing loss.

About one-third of Americans older than 60 have hearing problems, while about half the people 85 and older have hearing loss.  As a help for senior caregivers, Julie Ellingson, one of our two on-staff licensed social workers, provides the following tips for communicating with people who have hearing loss:


1. Reduce background noises.  Turn off radios or televisions or move away from them.

2. Before you speak, make sure you have the attention of the person who is hard of hearing.  Approach from the front, wave your hand, or tap the person lightly on the arm or shoulder.

3. Face the listener directly and make sure there is good lighting.

4. Maintain eye contact.  Don’t hover or stand above the person.  Be at his or her level.  For someone in a wheelchair, this means stooping.

5. Lower the pitch of your voice (which will make you more understandable) but still speak with a normal tone.

6. Do not speak with anything in your mouth, and keep your hands away from your mouth so that your lip movements and facial expressions can be seen.assisted home care in Minnesota home care comapnies non medical senior care for older people at home caregivers elderly home care service for seniors

7. Speak slowly and clearly, but don’t exaggerate or over-emphasize words.  Shouting or exaggerating speech only distorts lip movements.

8. Make sure the person can see your face as you speak.

9. Have the listener repeat the message so you know your words are understood.  If the person doesn’t understand you, try to rephrase rather than repeat the same words.  Some groups of words are easier to lip read than others.

10. Use simple, short sentences and simple questions.

11. Use visual cues such as pointing or “props.”  If needed, write out the important words.

12. Consider writing out notes.

Also remember to pay attention to your non-verbal communication. Your body language gives important clues to your attitudes and feelings. Gestures, posture, and facial expressions all communicate to your elderly parents with hearing loss.

Julie Ellingson, LSW


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