Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for both sides. For individuals with hearing loss, limited hearing can be stressful and draining, and for their conversation partners, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.

However, the frustration can be mitigated provided that both parties take responsibility for effective communication. Since communication is a two way process, each parties should work together to overcome the difficulties of hearing loss.

Listed below are some helpful tips for effective communication.

Guidelines for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Go for full disclosure; don’t simply express that you have difficulty hearing. Detail the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things like:
    • Keep small distances in between us
    • Face to face interaction is best
    • Get my attention before talking with me
    • Speak slowly and clearly without screaming
  • Search for quiet areas for conversations. Limit background noise by shutting off music, choosing a quiet table at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.

Keep in mind that people are usually empathetic, but only when you take the time to explain your situation. If your communication partner is aware of your difficulties and requirements, they’re significantly less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.

Tips 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 enunciate your words carefully. Hold a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Reduce background noise by choosing quiet areas for conversations. 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 prepared to have to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not due to a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say originally.

When communication breaks down, it’s easy 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 serious 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.

Instead, what if John searched for ways to develop his listening skills, and provided tips for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and tried 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 tips you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.