Communicating with People who Have Hearing Loss

Communicating with People who Have Hearing Loss

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-ACommunication, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Tips & Tricks

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-A

Hearing loss can become a challenge for everyone involved.  When people struggle to hear it can lead to frustration on both sides of conversation. Even when hearing aids are being used communication does not always go as planned. Conversing with someone with hearing loss takes practice to navigate communication barriers. Below are a few tips to make communication easier for everyone in all situations.

Be a Communication Partner

It’s important to remember that there are two people in a conversation. While hearing aids make a world of difference to those who are hearing impaired, there are situations where hearing aids alone do not provide enough nuisances to hear correctly. When these situations do present, it’s nice to think of your self as a communication partner and help the other to make sure information is conveyed correctly with the least amount of stress.

Make Sure You Have The Other’s Full Attention

Make sure the listener is paying attention before you start to speak. A good way to do this is by using the other’s name. It helps to know as much as you can about the other person and their hearing ability. For instance, if know that the other hears better in one ear than the other make sure you direct your voice towards the good ear. When appropriate and light tap on the shoulder or hand motion to get the listener’s attention is a great way to know that they are ready to listen.

Use eye contact

Make sure that you are facing the person with hearing loss. When you maintain eye contact when you speak the listener can pick up on your facial expression and body language to pick up on nuisance in your words. A smile, a furrowed brow, or a frown can say allot in the way of body language when other parts of hearing are not as clear as they could be.

Keep a Clear View of Your Face

Don’t cover up your mouth with your hands while talking.  Many people with hearing loss use lip reading to supplement what they miss of other’s speech. This is called speech reading and helps improve speech perception. Something as simple as chewing gum or speaking with your mouth open is enough to confuse the listener.

Don’t Exaggerate Speech

Be sure to speak clearly and avoid exaggeration. Shouting is uncalled for when speaking to people with hearing loss, as it will often distort your words. Be aware that if you mumble this will make it more difficult for the other so if there is any time to focus on annunciating your words it is now. Speak calmly making sure not to say things too fast or too slow and if you are going to change the subject it can be helpful to signify that to the listener. Saying “new topic” before you start gives the listener a moment to reorient themselves to a new subject. This gives the listener time to process speech and keeps things from becoming overwhelming.

Rephrase rather than repeat

Of course instances can occur where the listener miss hears information and asks for it to be repeated. Rather than saying the same thing over again many people with hearing loss say it is more helpful to rephrase rather than repeat what you said. Use synonyms to convey the original message. It could be the tone or consonants of the words that are making it harder to hear. Another option is checking in with the person to find out what part of the sentence in question they didn’t understand. Often it is just a part or few words of a sentence that are missed.

Direct Conversation Away from Background

When possible, limit the amount of background noise when having a conversation. If the television or stereo is on turn it down.  If you are in a crowded place and communication is strained suggest stepping outside or moving someplace quieter.

Make Sure to be Well Lit

When a person relies on speech reading to supplement a hearing loss it is important to make sure your face is well lit to provide an environment where the person with hearing loss can best succeed. Following this and all the previous steps will ensure a clear conversation that you both can enjoy.