Taking Care of Someone Who Is Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Woman using sign language with deaf man
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If you have recently found yourself in a situation where you are taking care of a loved one who is deaf or hard of hearing, you may be struggling to help them. Furthermore, you will need to learn to manage the stress of taking care of another person to avoid caregiver burnout. This article will address many of the most common issues that you may face while taking care of someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Tips for Communicating With Someone Who Is Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  1. Depending on circumstances, learning some basic sign language may be useful.
  2. Talk face to face so that the person who is deaf or hard of hearing can see your lips. Talk slowly and clearly.
  3. For someone who is hearing impaired, speak loudly enough so that they can hear you without shouting. Shouting or yelling can cause distortions in sound that can actually make it more difficult for them to understand you.
  4. If the individual you are a caregiver to has hearing that is worse in one ear make sure you position yourself on the side of the ear that has better hearing.
  5. Try to minimize background noise.
  6. If necessary consider communicating in writing. Especially if the information is important.
  7. An individual may struggle more to communicate if they are tired or sick. This goes for you too, you may be more likely to lose your patience or become irritated if you are tired or ill.
  1. Make sure to keep appointments and to work with specialists such as an audiologist or speech therapist to continue to improve communication. Utilize any technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants that may be beneficial.
  2. Recognize that body language is a big part of non-verbal communicating. This is another reason to face each other when speaking. Be aware of your body movements and how they might be interpreted.
  1. Learn about community resources for the deaf and hard of hearing.

What Is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout, (sometimes called caregiver stress syndrome), is an actual condition that results from foregoing your own physical and emotional needs in order to care for another person. If caregiver burnout is not treated it can lead to an inability to function or illness. Signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout may include:

  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Hopelessness
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Getting sick more often
  • Feeling as though you want to harm yourself or the person whom you're caring for
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight fluctuations
  • Neglecting the person you should be caring for
  • Poor treatment of the person you're caregiving for
  • Substance abuse (drinking more, misusing sleeping pills etc...)
  • Difficulty concentrating

Preventing Caregiver Burnout

In order to prevent caregiver burnout you must take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. This is challenging for most caregivers since you're now juggling your own needs with that of another individual. Keeping the following tips in mind might help:

  • Get enough sleep: This can be especially difficult since the person you are caring for may have health problems that interfere with their sleep. It may be necessary for you to be awake to meet their needs. In order to get enough sleep yourself it's a good idea to try to sleep when the person you're caring for is asleep. If they take a nap try to use the opportunity to get some shut eye. If they suffer from insomnia or bizarre sleep patterns talk to a doctor. Remember that both you and the person you're caring for are more likely to be frustrated, cranky or depressed if you haven't had enough sleep. Getting enough exercise and staying away from stimulants such as caffeine may help to improve the quality of sleep you are able to get.
  • Exercise: As previously noted, exercise can improve your quality of sleep, it can also improve your mental health and physical functioning. You're not likely to have enough time to hit the gym as a caregiver, so getting a proper amount of physical activity may involve some creativity. You might need to walk or jog in place while waiting for a doctor's appointment or get some leg lifts in while your charge is watching a favorite T.V. program. If you can find an exercise both you and the person you're caring for can do together it will make getting your daily dose of physical activity in even easier. Use your imagination.
  • Get proper nutrition: It may be tempting to order a lot of take out or to stick to fast food options with the limited time many caregivers have. However, eating a healthy diet will go a long way in maintaining your physical and emotional strength. If you must eat out try to find nutritional information online before ordering. The good news is that more and more restaurants are providing this info to customers. Stocking up on healthy foods that don't require much preparation when you can is also a good idea, (for example apples, or veggies that come already washed or cut up). You will also need to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help: This can be especially difficult, and a real problem for many people who end up victims of caregiver stress/burnout. Help may seem to be inaccessible to you, or you may be embarrassed to ask. However, this is one of the most important things you can do. If a helpful neighbor or family member offers to do something for you, let them. If necessary, talk to your doctor about community resources that may be available to you. Trying to do everything yourself will almost certainly lead to emotional or physical burnout.
  • Talk to someone about what you're going through: Take the time to vent. If you can sit down with an understanding friend who will listen do it. If you don't have anyone you feel understands your struggle look online or talk to your doctor about finding a support group.

It can be difficult to take care of yourself while caregiving for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing but remember that if you become sick yourself you will be unable to care for your loved one. With a little bit of effort and creativity many people can find a way to balance their own needs with those of the individual they're caring for.

Sou​rces:

Caregiving: Recognizing Burnout. Cleveland Clinic Website. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/caregiving-recognizing-burnout. Accessed July 18, 2017.

Communicating with People with Hearing Loss. UCSF Medical Center Website. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/communicating_with_people_with_hearing_loss/​.

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