If you’re living with someone with hearing loss, or if you have hearing loss yourself and are moving in with someone with “normal hearing,” here are a few things you should know:
My partner is well aware of my hearing loss and is mindful of how he communicates with me. He knows to get my attention first before speaking to me, that I like to watch television with closed captioning on, and that he should wear a partner microphone in difficult listening environments. Despite all this, he has never lived with someone who has hearing loss. I have never lived with someone who has normal hearing, outside of living with my family. Here are three things to keep in mind when moving in with your hearing partner.
It takes time and practice to break old communication habits and create new ones. For example, my partner may communicate with me from another room or say something as he walks by. I do this too, despite knowing I can’t hear when others do this to me. In fact, most people can’t hear when you are talking from the other side of the house in a different room. Thus, we work together and remind each other to be in the same room when conversing. This avoids a communication breakdown.
Another communication adjustment is more awareness of where to place your hands when speaking. When eating and talking, my partner sometimes holds his food in front of his mouth before taking a bite. When I see this, I subtly remind him to move his hand away from his mouth. He knows I want to hear what he has to say and using a subtle hand gesture avoids interrupting the conversation, while still getting the point across.
Listening and wearing hearing instruments all day can be tiring and sometimes irritating, especially after a long day at work. I cherish those small moments of silence to give my ears a break. In the morning, I put my hearing instruments on before leaving for work, and take them off after dinner. This can be frustrating for my partner when he has something to say to me and I am walking around deaf, unaware that he is speaking to me. I do try reading his lips when I am deaf, but with his thick German accent and differences in lip movement, I fail to understand him without auditory input. So I tell him to wait, and go put my hearing instruments back on.
In this case, I try to be more mindful by telling my partner right away that I do not have hearing instruments on. I also take shorter breaks throughout the day from wearing my hearing instruments, rather than taking fewer but longer breaks. If my partner needs to tell me something, he is comfortable with getting my hearing instruments for me to put on.
There are definite positives to all this. My boyfriend gets up earlier than me and is content knowing he can make all the noise in the world, and it will not disturb me. He also enjoys making coffee in the morning using our loud coffee grinder. My benefit is waking up to a nice cup of coffee waiting for me.
At night, I like to do some reading before going to sleep. My boyfriend likes to play video games or catch up on television. I am able to enjoy my quiet time by taking off my hearing instruments and he is free to have the volume at whichever level he is comfortable with. This works nicely in that we can enjoy being in the same room together doing our own thing.
We are both becoming more aware of how we communicate. With consistent reminders, we will be able to implement these modifications naturally. This does require patience and understanding from all communication partners, as maintaining relationships involve more than one person to make it work. In the end, these adjustments make you more of an effective communicator.
“We are both becoming more aware of how we communicate.”
Are you living with someone with hearing loss? What communication adjustments did you have to make?