Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be frustrating—for both parties. For people with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and draining, and for their communication partners, the frequent repeating can be equally taxing.
However, the difficulty can be mitigated providing both parties assume responsibility for productive communication. Since communication is a two-way process, both parties should work together to overcome the obstacles of hearing loss.
The following are a few useful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you suffer from hearing loss:
- Strive for complete disclosure; don’t just point out that you have difficulty hearing. Identify the cause of your hearing loss and supply tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
- Keep short distances between us
- Face to face interaction is best
- Get my attention before speaking to me
- Speak slowly and clearly without shouting
- Search for quiet areas for conversations. Lessen background noise by shutting off music, choosing a quiet table at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Retain a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.
Bear in mind that people are ordinarily empathetic, but only if you make the effort to clarify your position. If your communication partner is aware of your difficulties and preferences, they’re less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.
Guidelines for those without hearing loss
If your conversation partner has hearing loss:
- Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when speaking.
- Make sure the person can see your lips and enunciate your words diligently. Sustain a consistent volume in your speech.
- Reduce background noise by choosing quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the television or radio.
- In group settings, ensure that only one person is speaking at a 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 the result of a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never say “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and implies that the person is not worth having to repeat what was significant enough to say in the first place.
When communication fails, it’s convenient to blame the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.
Consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having significant 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.
As an alternative, what if John found ways to improve his listening skills, and provided advice for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and attempted 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 way to better communication.
Do you have any communication recommendations you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.