Improving Communication in the Presence of Hearing Loss

Two women having a conversation outside

Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for both sides. For those with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and draining, and for their communication partners, the frequent repeating can be equally taxing.

But the challenge can be alleviated as long as both parties assume responsibility for successful communication. Since communication is a two-way process, each parties should collaborate 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 have hearing loss:

  • Aim at complete disclosure; don’t just point out that you have difficulty hearing. Describe the cause of your hearing loss and supply recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your communication partner things like:
    • Maintain small distances between us
    • Face to face communication is best
    • Get my attention prior to talking to me
    • Speak slowly and clearly without shouting
  • Choose tranquil areas for conversations. Reduce background noise by shutting off music, locating a quiet table at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have happy memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.

Keep in mind that people are usually empathetic, but only if you take some time to clarify your situation. If your conversation partner is cognizant of your difficulties and requirements, 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:

  • Gain 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 diligently. Sustain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • In groups, make sure only one person is speaking at a time.
  • Remember 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 phrase is dismissive and implies that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.

When communication fails, it’s easy to pin the blame on 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 considerable communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.

As an alternative, what if John searched for methods to develop his listening skills, and provided tips 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 accepting responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the difficulties. This is the only road to better communication.

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

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.