Two women having a conversation outside

Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for both sides. For those with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and tiring, and for their conversation companions, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.

However, the challenge can be lessened providing both parties take responsibility for effective communication. Since communication is a two way process, each parties should collaborate to overcome the difficulties of hearing loss.

Listed below are a few helpful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Go for complete disclosure; don’t simply express that you have trouble hearing. Identify the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your communication partner things like:
    • Maintain small distances in between us
    • Face to face interaction is best
    • Get my attention before talking to me
    • Speak slowly and clearly without yelling
  • Search for quiet places for conversations. Minimize background noise by shutting off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have affectionate memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.

Remember that people are ordinarily empathetic, but only if you take some time to explain your circumstances. If your communication partner is conscious of your challenges and requirements, they’re significantly less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your communication partner has hearing loss:

  • Gain the person’s attention prior to 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. Hold a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the television or radio.
  • In group settings, make sure only one person is speaking at any given time.
  • Remember that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be prepared to have 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 suggests that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say in the first place.

When communication breaks down, it’s convenient 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 average hearing, and they are having serious communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.

As an alternative, what if John searched for tactics to enhance 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 problems. This is the only way to better communication.

Do you have any communication guidelines you’d like to add? Let us know in a comment.