How to respond when someone who is hard of hearing asks you to repeat yourself

There’s a hearing aid commercial that’s been on the air for a while where the son says, “I love you, Dad.” The dad responds with, “What?” The son raises his voice and repeats himself. And the dad still doesn’t hear him.

Then the dad talks about how much his world changed for the better after he got the particular brand of hearing aid being advertised.

Recently I had my hearing checked. (Thanks to the wonderful team at Orlando Ear, Nose & Throat Associates, especially Dr. Michael Bibliowicz and Kelly Bilbruck.) Yes, too much loud rock ‘n roll music when I was younger has taken its toll. But the reason I’m sharing this is the audiologist taught me something that made me say, “Wow!”

If someone doesn’t hear you clearly and asks you to repeat yourself, don’t raise your voice, change your words.

For example, let’s say a wife asks her husband, “What do you want for dinner?”

He knows she said something and he might have understood two or three of the words, but not enough to know how to answer her, so he replies, “What?”

If she repeats the same words with more volume, there’s a good chance he still won’t understand—but he’ll feel like she’s yelling at him and possibly get defensive or angry.

If instead of repeating her first question, she rephrases it and says, “I’m planning what we’re going to have for dinner. What are you in the mood for?”, he might still miss some of the words, but there’s a good chance he’ll connect enough of what he heard from both questions and be able to answer her.

The result? Less frustration, better communication.

Of course, there are different types and degrees of hearing loss, and this technique won’t work for all of them. But if you’re close to someone whose hearing is deteriorating and you find yourself repeating things and raising your voice (yelling) without success, try rephrasing. It might make a huge improvement in your relationship.

Jacquelyn Lynn
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