Tips For Improving Communication in the Presence of Hearing Loss

Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for each party. For individuals with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and draining, and for their communication partners, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.

But the challenge can be alleviated providing both parties assume responsibility for productive communication. Since communication is a two way process, the two parties should work together to conquer the challenges of hearing loss.

Here are some useful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Aim for full disclosure; don’t just say that you have difficulty hearing. Identify the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best communicate with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things like:
    • Keep short distances in between us
    • Face-to-face communication is best
    • Get my attention before talking to me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without screaming
  • Find tranquil locations for conversations. Reduce background noise by shutting off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have fond memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now chuckle about.

Remember that people are usually empathetic, but only if you make the effort to explain your position. If your conversation partner is mindful of your challenges and preferences, they’re considerably less likely to become angry when communication is disrupted.

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your communication partner has hearing loss:

  • Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t yell from across the room and face the person when speaking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and articulate your words carefully. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • In group settings, ensure that only one person is speaking at any given time.
  • Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not a comprehension problem. Be prepared to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never use the phrase “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and implies that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was significant enough to say in the first place.

When communication breaks down, it’s easy to pin the blame on the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.

As an example, consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has average hearing, and they are having considerable communication issues. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes that John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John found techniques to develop his listening skills, and offered advice for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and tried to find ways that she could communicate more clearly.

Now, both John and Mary are taking responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the difficulties. This is the only route to better communication.

Do you have any communication tips you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.

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