Effects of Hearing Loss

Effects of Hearing Loss

Why Does Grandpa Misunderstand So Often?

By David Ward AuD
Doctor of Audiology

The ability to communicate using speech is something that most of us take for granted.  We say something and the person we are talking to responds appropriately. The only time we really notice is when there is a breakdown in communication. For example, if someone starts speaking to us and we aren’t paying attention, or if we are in a noisy room and we have to raise our voices to be understood.  Even in a less than ideal listening environment our brain has an amazing capacity to fill in gaps even when we didn’t hear everything that a person says. However, the more gaps there are the more difficult it is to understand what is being said. Have you ever had to listen to someone that had a very thick accent? By the end of the conversation you were most likely exhausted and possibly a little frustrated. That is because there are more communication gaps and you have to work a lot harder to understand what the person is saying.

A visual representation might look like this.

I wan o go o he ore o uy ome a

The first part is easy to figure out, but the last word could be anything.

Now imagine having to do that all the time.

When a person has even a mild hearing loss they begin to have more communication gaps. If there is even a little bit of background noise, or if you look away from them there are even more gaps. That means that they have to work extra hard to understand what was said to them. Often they will misunderstand, or maybe not even respond at all because they didn’t realize that you were speaking to them.  Many people that have a significant hearing loss will withdraw from participating in group conversations because it is just too much effort to try to understand. They might simply smile and nod, or even get up and leave the room.  So, it is important to remember to be patient when speaking with someone who has a hearing loss. They aren’t trying to be difficult. They really just don’t hear very well.  

Remember, when speaking to someone with a hearing loss:

  • Get their attention first
  • Look at them when speaking
  • Reduce or eliminate any extra background noise.

Following these 3 easy steps will help to reduce many of the breakdowns in conversation and reduce stress for both of you.

Hearing aids are also helpful for people with hearing loss. When set appropriately hearing aids boost the sounds that the person doesn’t hear well up to a level that is usable for them and that is comfortable for them to listen to. This reduces the hearing gaps and allows them to understand with less effort and reduces the stress and anxiety for everyone involved.