Many people have elderly relatives with profound hearing loss, or friends who have noise-induced hearing loss caused by years of exposure to loud music or industrial sounds. Dealing with the hard of hearing can be frustrating at times, since conversations may have to be repeated several times or important instructions go unheeded. It can be easy to confuse hearing loss with a lack of mental comprehension, as well. There are several ways to deal with those who are hard of hearing so that both parties don't become hopelessly frustrated or socially embarrassed.
One way to deal with someone with hearing loss is to enunciate words slowly and clearly. This does not mean "dumbing down" the conversation, however, which can come across as condescending or insensitive. Instead, look directly at the person's face when speaking and only raise the volume level to a point where a comfortable conversation can still be held, not a full shout. A person with a naturally low speaking voice may want to raise the tone as well as the volume. Many people who have hearing issues cannot hear very low bass tones, but can hear a woman's voice quite well.
It is also important to remember that a person who is hard of hearing is not completely deaf. He or she will not automatically understand sign language or know how to read lips. These are skills acquired over time by those who are profoundly deaf, not necessarily those who have partial hearing loss. A person who has hearing issues may be able to hear better from one ear than another, so speaking to that side exclusively may solve many communication problems.
Some people may wonder why a person who is chronically hard of hearing does not pursue medical treatment to improve their condition or obtain a hearing aid. There are many possible answers. Hearing aids can be prohibitively expensive for older people on limited incomes or those without sufficient health insurance. A professional audiologist can assess the level of hearing loss and suggest various treatments, but cannot force a client to obtain a hearing aid or undergo delicate surgery. Some people may also understand their hearing is not as good as it once was, but admitting such a decline can be socially or professionally embarrassing for them.
There are several products on the consumer market which can amplify ambient and background noises through a small electronic microphone and earphones. These devices are not generally cost-prohibitive, and may provide some benefit for those who are hard of hearing due to noise exposure or aging. Some devices will even fit discreetly in the user's ear canal, and no prescription or examination would be necessary.
In the meantime, dealing with someone who is hard of hearing requires patience and understanding. Repeating a conversation may be frustrating for the speaker, but it can be just as frustrating for the person who must ask for the repetition. Losing an important sense such as hearing, especially at an early age, can be a very difficult time in a person's life, so friends, co-workers and relatives should find a way to help that person adjust to a new reality.