Patience has taken on a whole new meaning this past year. Who could imagine that staying home, would actually be more stressful. We doubt we are the only ones that feel we're busier now than pre-pandemic, or maybe it's just that we have no way to get away and release that energy. Either way, families have been tested, in so many ways, and nerves are frayed.
- Families crowded into one home working and learning remotely
- Single parents trying to juggle work, Zoom calls and parenting
- The sandwich generation holding the above together while also caring for an older or ill parent
- On the opposite end are single individuals who are craving time with other people
- And so many more stories of life in a pandemic
We have had to learn to listen — and to hear — in entirely new ways, whether on a taxing Zoom meeting with kids screaming in the background, walking with a friend while masked, or as our children break into tears over their frustration with remote learning or missing their friends.
The way we hear impacts our ability to communicate and maintain healthy relationships. Misunderstandings and the inability to clearly convey how we think and feel effects those relationships, making them better or worse.
The ability to listen and have a meaningful role in these conversations can be especially problematic for people who are experiencing trouble hearing, especially in loud environments, but refuse to acknowledge it. Without really understanding, caregivers and loved ones can easily, and often, lose their patience when they should really put themselves in their shoes for a day.
Insistence, lecturing and browbeating will get you nowhere. Richard E. Carmen, AuD advises that the key is to identify your feelings first by asking yourself:
- Am I angry that my loved one won’t get help?
- Do I get upset when I have to repeat myself and raise my voice?
- Do you agree to stay away from certain social situations because of your loved one’s hearing loss?
- Do you resent this?
Remember that a person’s challenges with hearing have nothing to do with you. If you feel frustrated than it’s a sign that it’s time to be understanding, empathetic and assist your loved one.
In Carmen’s book, How Hearing Loss Impacts Relationships: Motivating Your Loved One, to put yourself in a loved one's shoes, he suggests wearing earplugs for an entire day — if you can stand it — to see the many subtleties you’ll miss. These include a person’s voice intonation, a misunderstood word or an important context.
Then, take it to the next level and strap on masks. This will give you a very clear understanding of how your loved one must feel at loud family gatherings or events when they cannot hear well enough to participate. How many times do you say “what?”
The Importance of Empathy in Communicating a Delicate Issue
Some people with hearing challenges find it irritating, embarrassing or gut-wrenching to concede that anything is amiss, and they’ve figured out workarounds to carry on. When even the smallest perceived decline of hearing is so closely associated with aging and the feeling of losing value in the world, it’s understandable.
Only through empathy, and a good dose of patience, can we pull from our loved one how they are feeling and get them to open up about their hearing frustrations. Then we can understand the situations that are challenging and begin to help them live a more amplified life filled with love and the beautiful sounds of the world around them.
Experts offer tips on how to tell if you or someone you live or work with is struggling with hearing in loud environments or in groups:
- Do they seem to struggle with clarity of conversations as if sounds and speech are muffled or they're missing consonants?
- Are the radio and TV often turned up a little too loud?
- Is it easier and less anxiety-provoking to stay home rather than attend social events where you will struggle to be part of the conversation?
- Do masks make it more difficult for you, than others, to hear and communicate clearly?