An estimated 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents. In people under 70, hearing loss has been heavily correlated with severe loneliness and depression. However, the right support network can go an incredibly long way towards addressing that risk, which scientists have identified as being on par with smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.

Such support networks inevitably begin at home, with one's family. If you know a loved one suffering from hearing impairment, it's your responsibility to do what you can to help them feel included. Most often, that means learning some form of sign language and encouraging other family members to do the same.

Some deaf people are lucky enough to have family members who are fluent signers. Unfortunately, this is frequently exclusive to their immediate family. This means that at family gatherings, children especially must rely on parents to act as a go-between for them, translating conversations and music. 

Unfortunately, this can make family gatherings feel even more stressful and isolating, as the hearing-impaired individual may feel like they're only included in some situations rather than all—and that the situations in which they are included are burdensome for the people around them. 

This is made all the worse by the fact that some family members might even refuse to communicate with the deaf person because they find it inconvenient. The good news is that you don't need to simply sit back and allow this to happen. In addition to encouraging people to learn sign language, there are several things you can do to make things more comfortable for deaf and hearing-impaired loved ones, both at family events and in their day-to-day lives: 
  • Train yourself to use visual cues, gestures, and facial expressions that convey meaning.
  • For family members who are unable or unwilling to sign, consider including a means of communication that incorporates writing.  
  • Consider enrolling in the National Deaf Center's Deaf 101, a three-hour course that teaches about deafness, hearing impairment, and communication. 
  • Ensure family gatherings are in an area that's well-lit and free of visual obstructions. 
  • Use closed captioning on all media. 
  • Consider hiring a professional interpreter or conscripting a text-to-speech service for larger family gatherings. 
  • Avoid games or activities that rely on audio cues, and instead consider exploring some deaf-friendly games.
  • Simply ask your loved one what you can do to make things more comfortable for them—different people have different communication needs, after all. 
Deafness and hearing impairment can be incredibly isolating, but they don't have to be. As the loved one of someone struggling with hearing loss, you have the capacity to help them not just cope with their situation but thrive in it. All it takes is a little effort, and the rest will follow in short order.