In part, this is because it's largely an 'invisible' condition. You cannot tell at a glance if someone is struggling with hearing loss.

This has, in turn, contributed to a ton of misconceptions about the hard of hearing (HoH). We're going to go over a few of the most common — the main things hearing people don't seem to understand about the hearing impaired. 

Hearing Loss is Exhausting

One's daily life while struggling with hearing impairment is utterly draining for most.

At any given moment, noise is coming at them from every angle. For abled people, these are simply bits and pieces of regular, daily stimuli. They're easily ignored.

However, for HoH people, all that noise may come in distorted, at multiple volumes, or blended together. This makes it extremely difficult to isolate any single sound. It's difficult to focus on what someone in front of you says when there's a background cacophony drowning them out. 

How You Can Help

Don't take it personally if someone appears to be ignoring you. They may have no idea you're speaking it all. And be understanding and patient if you're asked to repeat something — It's not that much of an inconvenience.

They Can Speak for Themselves

If you have a loved one who's hearing impaired, you may have tried answering questions on their behalf in the past. Although that comes from a place of love, it's incredibly frustrating. HoH people don't need you to speak for them or over them when they're still trying to process and formulate a response.

It's also important to understand that hearing aids don't give every user perfect audio clarity, especially if a HoH individual has any co-morbidities. And although they can generally learn to work around their ability levels, larger gatherings like dinner parties or office meetings can be challenging. This is primarily because there are few breaks in the conversation and few opportunities for the HoH person to catch up and understand what's being said.

Navigating social situations with hearing loss is hard. 

How You Can Help

If it's clear your loved one did not hear a question or statement directed at them, repeat it to them. You can also act as a sort of 'visual cue' about your companion's hearing impairment by clarifying to those around you that you're turning to speak directly towards them or typing and showing them your screen.

This has two effects. First, this allows HoH individuals to participate more easily in conversation. More importantly, when an observer sees someone adjust how they're communicating with a hard of hearing person, they're likelier to follow suit and make concessions themselves. 

Finally, don't speak in a distorted or overly loud voice. Enunciate your words, and face a HoH person when speaking if possible. Understand that they may need a moment to catch up. 

HoH People Are Not Your Personal Encyclopedias

If you have minimal experience with hearing impairment, it can be tempting to give in to curiosity and subject a HoH individual to a barrage of questions. The brain of a HoH individual is constantly in overdrive, trying to filter irrelevant background noises or voices and focus on the ones they're supposed to. Ask yourself if it's worth adding more frustration just to ask a few simple questions.

How You Can Help

Before you ask a HoH person any question, take a step back and ask yourself if this is something you could look up yourself with a Google search. There are plenty of opinion pieces, blog posts, and guides that are all just a few clicks away. The internet hosts a wealth of information that can tell you virtually everything you ever wanted to know about hearing loss, including how not to behave. 

Hearing impairment doesn't make a person incapable. Yes, it’s a disability, yes, but one that requires only a few minor tweaks to work around. With a bit of respect and conscious inclusivity, you can make life significantly less stressful for your hearing impaired friends, colleagues, and loved ones.