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Having Problems Communicating with Your Hearing-Impaired Parent?
Author and Elderly Patient Advocate, Judie Rappaport, Shares Valuable Communication Tips
Ask Judie Rappaport, author of Eldercare 911 Blog and President of PLS/Eldercare 911 Geriatric Care Management, how to cope with Mom’s hearing loss and she’ll tell you, “Untreated hearing loss contributes to family arguments, dangerous accidents (Mom can’t hear the stove timer, doorbell, or fire alarms), and even an inaccurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease because if Mom can’t hear the question, she can’t intelligently respond.”
Do hearing aids solve the problem? Judie laughs, “I wish I had a dollar for every client who complained, ‘I can see Dad’s hearing aids in his ears and he still pretends he doesn’t hear me!’ She continues: “Wearing hearing aids won’t help if:
1. they aren’t turned on
2. the batteries don’t work
3. they’ve been submerged, dropped hard, become play toys for the cat, or otherwise damaged
4. they aren’t specific to your parent’s hearing problem”
Judie offers simple clues simple clues: “People who have difficulty hearing may:
• constantly repeat what you say, verifying to you and themselves that they heard you
• guess at answers to questions they didn’t fully hear with answers that don’t relate to the question
• repeatedly say “uh-huh, uh-huh” as you speak signifying understanding
• insist ‘you never told me that’ (which, in fact, is true, because even though you said it, Mom never heard you)
• turn their ‘good ear’ toward sounds (rain, sirens, your voice) to hear more clearly
Judie offers four tips to minimize misunderstandings and improve communication:
• Face Your Parent When Speaking. Hearing-
• Speak Slowly and Distinctly. Use moderately paced conversational tones. Avoid slang and being condescending;
• Do Not Yell. Speak in low, clear tones. Read this sentence aloud in a normal tone of voice. Now read it louder, almost yelling the words. Do it again and this time, notice that the louder you speak, the higher your pitch. i.e., you “raise your voice.” Since high-pitched sounds are the hardest to hear, your parent may hear only the low tones and misunderstand your meaning.
• Clarify misunderstandings immediately. If your parent doesn’t respond, or the response bears no connection to your question, assume a mis-communication. Re-state your questions using the first three tips.
Judie’s #1 recommendation?
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