Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for both parties. For those with hearing loss, limited hearing can be stressful and tiring, and for their conversation partners, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.

But the challenge can be lessened providing both parties take responsibility for profitable communication. Since communication is a two-way process, both parties should collaborate to beat the challenges of hearing loss.

The following are a few useful tips for effective communication.

Guidelines for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Strive for complete disclosure; don’t just point out that you have difficulty hearing. Explain the cause of your hearing loss and supply recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
    • Keep small distances between us
    • Face-to-face interaction is best
    • Get my attention before speaking with me
    • Speak slowly and clearly without shouting
  • Choose tranquil places for conversations. Reduce background noise by turning off music, looking for a quiet table at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have affectionate memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.

Remember that people are typically empathetic, but only if you take the time to explain your position. If your communication partner is mindful of your challenges and preferences, they’re far less likely to become angry when communication is disrupted.

Tips for those without hearing loss

If your conversation partner has hearing loss:

  • Gain the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when speaking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Sustain 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 a time.
  • Remember that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be ready to repeat yourself on occasion, and remember that this is not because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was important enough to say originally.

When communication breaks down, it’s convenient 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 major communication problems. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John searched for ways 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 taking responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the problems. This is the only route to better communication.

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