You love your grandchildren — their smiles, the way they look like their parents did when they were young, and their exuberance — but sometimes, they are very hard to hear. Children have a way of swallowing their words, or slurring them together, and typically have softer and higher pitched voices. That is, when they are not shrieking with delight or terror. Their way of speaking makes it hard to understand them under any conditions, but with hearing loss it can be even tougher, especially with age related hearing loss, which tends to impact the higher frequencies most.
Hearing loss is no reason to miss out on the fun and important relationships you desire with your grandchildren. Teaching them the best way to speak with you will take patience and repetition, but it is worth it. Share these tips with them in an age appropriate way each time you see them. Soon it will become second nature.
1. Tell them about your hearing loss. The first step is letting them know that it is hard for you to hear them. You can show them your hearing aids and explain that your ears don’t work as well as theirs do. For younger children that might be enough of an explanation, but older children will be interested in the scientific aspects. Visit websites like KidsHealth or Dangerous Decibels with them to explore how hearing works and the causes of hearing loss.
2. Ask them to get your attention first. Explain that it is much easier for you to hear them if they get your attention first. That way you can concentrate on what they are saying and have a better chance of understanding the topic of the conversation. Knowing the context can help a lot when you need to figure out harder-to-hear words.
3. Make sure they are facing you. Explain how you use their lips to help you hear. Tell them, “If I can’t see you, I can’t hear you.” My family and I sometimes play lipreading games to help them understand how I use lipreading to hear. They can be a lot of fun
4. Keep background noise low and the lights bright. Ask them to turn down the music while you talk or to move away from the air conditioning unit to minimize competing sounds. Well-lit spaces also make it easier to lipread.
5. Teach them to take turns speaking. Children can be excited to speak and don’t know to wait their turn, but it is probably difficult for you to hear more than one speaker at a time. Remind them to take turns speaking. This is good manners in any event, and will make it much easier for you to follow the conversation.
6. Ask them to speak at a normal volume and pace. Explain that normal speech is easier to lipread, while shouting or excessively slow speech is harder for you to understand. Clarity of the sounds is the key, so ask them to speak each word as clearly as they can rather than slurring them together. Sometimes asking them to pretend they are speaking to an audience or are onstage can help them understand what you mean.
7. If you miss something, ask for clarification. Rather than just saying “What?” or tuning out, ask them to rephrase or spell a difficult word (depending on their age). Or ask them to point to the object in question. Repeat the part of the sentence you heard and ask them to fill in the missing pieces. Say what you think you heard — sometimes the mishearings can be very funny if you let them be.
8. Get down to their level. Sit on the floor with them, or ask them to join you on your lap. Interact with their toys along with them. The more engaged you are with them in activities, the more willing they will be to make the extra effort to communicate.
9. Maintain a good energy level. Communication takes work, especially when you have hearing loss. Make sure you are well rested before a visit. Eat healthy foods, try to exercise regularly and be sure to get enough sleep. Don’t be afraid to take breaks if your energy is lagging.
10. Keep your sense of humor. It can be frustrating, but remember the goal is to connect with your grandchildren, so why not laugh at the misunderstandings rather than being upset by them. Children are used to making mistakes and learning new words, and they will not judge you for your errors. If you are at ease with your hearing loss, they will be too.
Hearing loss can make communication difficult, but by following these tips and maintaining a healthy attitude, it does not have to stand in the way of meaningful and lasting relationships with your grandchildren. Don’t let a single moment with them go to waste.
Oral storytelling is one of the most ancient art-forms. Stories have been passed on by word of mouth to entertain, educate and inform from generation to generation, long before recorded history.
Although these oral traditions have changed, the desire to TELL and HEAR stories remained constant. This is why hearing loss can have such a significant impact on everyday life.
The sudden change in hearing ability after receiving new hearing aids or cochlear implants impacts most aspects of your life, but listening exercises can vastly improve one’s auditory skills.
Those who are unable to participate in conversations can experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration. Thankfully, there are ways to rehabilitate from the loss of hearing, through technology and auditory training.
Audiobook exercises can be conducted at home or as part of an Auditory Rehab program. A Rehab Specialist, such as a rehab audiologist, an auditory verbal therapist or speech pathologist, can guide and coach you on the strategy, as well as recommend sessions where family or significant others can join in and learn effective communication techniques. Therapy-based services can help you successfully put the pieces of the communication puzzle together.
Today, a new era of oral storytelling or audio books is booming with mobile technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and multimedia entertainment systems in cars and podcasts over the internet.
Audiobooks, especially, are easily accessible and an enjoyable way to practice listening that can be completed independently at your own pace. They are particularly useful for patients who might have difficulty finding a suitable conversational partner. Auditory training at home with audio books and the corresponding texts is an enjoyable rehabilitation option that spans the scope of a beginner to experienced cochlear implant user.
Your first book should be a book you are already familiar with and have even read a few times. This serves as a way to get the “feel” of the audiobook experience which focuses on listening not vision. You’ll find that it’s quite different from reading paper books, so ease yourself into this and don’t rush. Non-fiction books are a good beginning as the storyline is familiar and predictable.
Select audiobooks that have a clear narrator, a relatively slow pace and without accents foreign to you. Consider books with few characters to follow. Sound effects and background music should be limited as not to obscure the spoken words of the book.
Select audiobooks that have a clear narrator, a relatively slow pace and without accents foreign to you.
It is important to listen in a quiet room or connect your sound source directly to your cochlear implant processors or hearing aids with a Telecoil, Bluetooth or a direct audio input cable.
There are three listening levels based on your auditory experience and skills.
As a beginner, try listening to an unabridged audiobook while reading the book simultaneously. This helps you to make the connection between the words you hear and words. By listening and looking at the words at the same time, a connection can be made and comprehension soars.
If this level is a challenge: Ask a friend to read a written passage out loud to you while you follow along reading the words. Run your fingers along the words as they are spoken. This is easier than a recorded audiobook because you are familiar with the friend’s voice and speaking style. A friend can respond to your requests to slow down, repeat or make changes based on your abilities.
When you become more familiar with the practice of listening to audiobooks, listen to an unabridged audiobook and have the hardcopy book to look at as needed, or to review what was said and heard. Listen to the audiobook for short periods of time as it can be fatiguing.
If this is a challenge try reading the book first. This will help with understanding the topic or plot so you know the storyline as you listen to the audiobook.
Remove the visual and focus on listening ALONE to the audiobook without the written text. Over time this will build your confidence and improve the ability to follow and take part in natural conversation situations.
When it comes to audiobook sources there is your local library and countless companies. Begin with a familiar story such a fable or classic tale and make you book choice based on the narration. Ask a librarian or friend with typical hearing for help choosing a narrator. Resources for free audiobook listening samples are available NoveList Plus, iTunes, and Audible. Consider if the source offers options to listen to multiple speeds and the ability to quickly rewind or fast forward.
A popular option for hearing aid and cochlear implant users is the “Great Listen Guarantee” in which you can exchange one audiobook for another, no questions asked offered by Audible. This allows you can try the audiobook and decide if the sound quality and narrator fit your listening level and needs.
“Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss, read by John Lithgow
This is a children’s book that has been read at high school and college graduations! It’s a book well-loved for beginners.
“Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo, read by Cherry Jones
This is a heart-warming story for young adults about a girl who learns how to get over her fear and loneliness thanks to a dog named Winn-Dixie and is perfect for intermediate listeners.
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, read by various.
The dramatic reading of this book has a different person reading the different parts, which makes it an excellent audiobook to practice listening and understanding different voices and accents.
Audiobooks are an excellent tool for auditory training and listening practice.
Soon you will be on your way to improved speech understanding for following conversations with much to talk about with all the audiobooks you’ve enjoyed!