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Top Tips For Better Communication When You or Someone You Know Has Hearing Loss

Medically Reviewed by Michal Luntz, M.D. and Kathryn D. Girardin, Au.D. on March 30, 2023


Man and woman talking, pink background, speech bubbles between them, bubbles have pink holes in them

 

In this article

 

Why communication strategies are important when speaking with someone who has a hearing loss or when you have hearing loss?


As an experienced audiologist, it is not uncommon for me to joke about being a part marriage counselor. When a couple comes in for a hearing test, I want to know how they communicate. I want to know, are they in the same room or even on the same floor? How noisy is it? Is the partner speaking softly?


Since hearing loss is gradual and the habits we developed over time become ingrained, our acquired hearing loss makes it difficult to communicate successfully as we once did. Where you used to be able to talk while doing the dishes and your partner sitting at the table, now you have to get their attention, turn off the water, and turn around. Restaurants are too noisy, everyone at the book club speaks too softly, etc.


The good news is that with a little effort, you can increase your odds of reducing the frustration and breakdowns that can occur.


“I hear you better when I have my glasses on”


For many of us, we get a lot of information from facial expressions and the movement of a person’s lips. This is one example of a communication strategy people are already using when they come to me. They know to look for additional information to support what they are hearing. This means making sure they can see the person they are speaking with. However, only about 20% - 30% of speech is visible on the lips. So what else can you do to improve communication when speaking with someone who has hearing loss, or when you have hearing loss?


 

How to improve communication when speaking with someone who has a hearing loss or when you have hearing loss?


It's important to be persistent and patient in ensuring an improved communication environment. There are many communication strategies you can adopt as a person with hearing loss or when you communicate with someone who has hearing loss. Here are common strategies you can start with:

  • Gain the listener's attention. Call their name and allow them time to get ready to listen.

  • Speak face-to-face. Facial expressions and body language are clues to help supplement spoken information.

  • Do not speak from a distance or different room.

  • Speak slower, not louder, and take pauses between thoughts.

  • Alert people to changes in topic.

  • Shut off unnecessary noise, such as fans, radios, television, and running water.

  • Check frequently for understanding. Don’t ask open-ended questions, they will almost always say “yes.”

  • Rephrase or restate instead of repeating exactly what was said.

  • Ask the individual to repeat back important dates, times, or other information.

  • Write down information when verbal communication is challenging.

  • Maintain a sense of humor when misunderstandings occur. Laughter can help to lighten the situation.

  • If the partner has somewhat asymmetric hearing loss, make sure you are standing on their better hearing side.

  • Make sure your face is illuminated and you do not cover your mouth with your hand.


Effective communication is the cornerstone of our daily lives, for building and maintaining relationships, and it plays a key role in ensuring the well-being of people with hearing loss. I hope the strategies outlined in this blog will help you improve your communication. If you have hearing loss I hope to encourage you to think about how to be successful, and most importantly help you to continue an engaged, social, and active lifestyle.


While the recommendations above set a solid foundation for communication, navigating specific scenarios like dining out can present its own set of challenges. In our upcoming post, 'Proven Strategies for Dining Out with Hearing Loss', we'll dive into these unique circumstances, providing valuable advice for dining out when you or someone in your group has hearing loss.


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