How to Communicate with Someone Who Has Hearing Loss

Written by: Dr. Jamie Gilgren

Communication is one of the most important aspects of our daily lives. Our ability to hear connects us to people, and when hearing loss is present, it can have an impact on our relationships. Hearing aids alone may not be enough to compensate for the communication difficulties people experience when hearing loss is present. Family members and friends of an individual with hearing loss can help reduce conversational difficulties by using the communication repair strategies below.

Gain the Listener’s Attention: Before you start talking, say the listener’s name, make eye contact, or touch their hand. This allows the listener a chance to focus and hear the first part of the conversation.

Speak Louder but Don’t Shout: It is okay to speak slightly louder, but shouting may be misunderstood as anger. Shouting also distorts the sound of speech, making it more difficult for the listener to distinguish each word. Use pauses to give the listener time to process the speech.

Speak Slowly: Slowing down your rate of speech allows the listener to better follow you. It is also vital that you speak clearly and distinctly, and do not let your speech become too exaggerated.

Speak Face to Face: Do not turn your face while speaking or put your hands in front of your face. Approximately 20% of our ability to understand speech comes from visual cues.

Find a Different Way to Say the Same Thing: Try rephrasing rather than repeating verbatim when he/she asks, “What?” Rephrasing allows for improved understanding of speech and avoids the frustration of saying the same thing over again. Also, try to avoid sudden changes in the topic of conversation.

Minimize Background Noise: Reduce background noises by turning off the radio and television or moving to a quiet corner away from the noise source. Do not be afraid to change seats or request a quiet table at a restaurant.

Choose the Right Time: Everyone has difficulty understanding speech in background noise or when being distracted. Try to reduce extraneous background noise. Wait to discuss important items until both of you are able to focus on the conversation.

If you or someone you know suspects a hearing loss, please contact us at (800) 787-HEAR

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