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Living with Someone With a Hearing Loss


[hr]One in six Australians has a hearing loss and projections for 2050 indicate this will increase to one in every four. Research also indicates more than 3 million Australians have a partner who is hard of hearing. Learning how to live with someone who has a hearing loss will help reduce the stress and vastly improve your and your loved one’s quality of your life. [hr]

living with someone who has hearing lossThe Ear Science Institute of Australia lists three types of hearing loss. There is conductive hearing loss, sensory neural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss.

This differences are based on anatomy and where the problem arises. Conductive Loss means there are problems with sound waves travelling to the cochlear, normally caused by a blockage in the inner or outer year. It is often seen with ear infections and conductive loss can sometimes be treated with medication or surgery. Sensorineural loss, which is usually permanent, is a nerve related problem involving the cochlear and the inner ear and is most often seen with ageing, or by noise damage. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of the two and involves both the middle and inner ear.

Living with a person who has a hearing impairment can be frustrating and difficult. A survey by Australian Hearing, which was conducted among more than 1000 Australians in April this year, reveals that two thirds (64 per cent) of Australians close to someone with hearing difficulties say hearing loss is putting their relationship under stress.

For 82 per cent of those who were surveyed, they cited arguments caused by miscommunication due to the hearing loss, as the main reason for stress and frustration.

Janette Thorburn, Principal Audiologist at Australia Hearing said many people leave it up to 10 years before doing something about their hearing loss and it the waiting that is causing relationships between friends and family to suffer.

“Stress on relationships is borne out of frustration in communication. Having to repeat oneself constantly, arguments from misunderstanding and having to shout during conversations can be very draining, particularly if this kind of activity is happening for many years and increasing in severity” said Ms Thorburn.

One in three (33%) agree they don’t confide in the person as often as they used to because having a conversation with them is difficult, while 3 in 10 (30%) agree they stay in with the person more because they don’t want to go out.

“Hearing loss affects more than just the sufferer. Simple everyday activities such as helping each other with chores, enjoying conversations with one another and attending social gatherings together can become a source of irritation for family members and loved ones, meaning they suffer too” said Ms Thorburn.

One organisation working to assist people to communicate with the hearing impaired is Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) a non-profit organisation run by volunteers who understand life with a hearing loss.

As well as providing free hands-on demonstrations and advice on assistive listening devices and alerting systems, SHHH has valuable print resources to support those with a hearing loss and those living with someone with a hearing loss.

[hr]A survey by Australian Hearing, which was conducted among more than 1000 Australians in April this year, reveals that two thirds (64 per cent) of Australians close to someone with hearing difficulties say hearing loss is putting their relationship under stress.[hr]

SHH Tips For Communicating With The Hearing Impairing And Getting Their Attention Include

  • If it is dark, turn on the light
  • Always face the hearing impaired person
  • Put yourself on the same level as the hearing impaired person – standing or sitting
  • Don’t speak to a hearing impaired person behind his or her back
  • Don’t turn your face away when speaking
  • Don’t speak from another room
  • When appropriate, gently touch the hearing impaired person before you speak
  • Ask the hearing impaired person what’s the best way to get their attention.


  • Don’t shout
  • Maybe speak a little slower but don’t exaggerate
  • Let the hearing impaired person see your lips – don’t chew food or gum or smoke while talking
  • Don’t put your hand or anything else over your mouth while speaking. If you wear a moustache or beard, keep it trimmed around your lips.

 Spotlight your face

  • Face a window or lamp to let the best light shine on your face to help the hearing impaired person see your mouth and expression as you speak
  • Remember that in the dark, a hearing impaired person finds it almost impossible to hear – e.g. in a car at night or in the bedroom in the dark.

Avoid noisy backgrounds

Before you speak to a hearing impaired person …

  • turn down the TV or radio
  • turn off the vacuum cleaner or other equipment – e.g. an electric jug
  • move away from a noisy fan or air-conditioner
  • move away from any noisy machinery
  • move away from loud music in a shopping centre
  • don’t try to talk above loud traffic noise
  • remember, if there is too much going on at once, the hearing impaired person will find it very difficult to hear or understand what you say
  • always remember it is harder for a hearing impaired person to hear when there is other noise.

Get to the Point

Say the main thing as soon as possible without preliminary description. If a hearing impaired person doesn’t understand you, find another way to say the same thing. Ie “What will the weather be tomorrow?” could be rephrased as “Will it be sunny tomorrow?”

Remember …

  • Hearing impaired people do not hear as well when they are tired or sick or have been involved in long conversational sessions
  • Check that what you said to the hearing impaired person was heard correctly
  • Use facial expression or gestures when talking to a hearing impaired person – it helps illustrate your meaning
  • Try to encourage the hearing impaired person to build up their self confidence
  • Try to keep patient and relaxed yourself

 Hearing impaired people hear when they can … not when they want to.


More Information:

If you are living with someone with a hearing impairment, Self Help for Hard of Hearing people (SHHH) can help. Visit their website at for more information

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Alana Lowes

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