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Tips For Strengthening Communication in the Presence of Hearing Loss

May 26, 2016

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 upsetting and exhausting, and for their conversation partners, the constant repeating can be just as taxing.

But the challenge can be lessened provided that both parties take responsibility for productive conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, the two parties should work together to overcome the challenges of hearing loss.

Listed below are some helpful tips for effective communication.

Guidelines for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Strive for full disclosure; don’t simply point out that you have difficulty hearing. Explain 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 between us
    • Face-to-face interaction is best
    • Get my attention prior to talking to me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without shouting
  • Find tranquil places for conversations. Limit background noise by shutting off music, choosing a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have happy memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.

Bear in mind that people are normally empathetic, but only when you make an effort to explain your position. If your communication partner is advised of your challenges and preferences, they’re much less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.

Tips for those without hearing loss

If your communication partner has hearing loss:

  • Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t yell from across the room and face the person when talking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words diligently. Preserve a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Reduce background noise by finding quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • In groups, make sure only one person is speaking at any given time.
  • Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself on occasion, 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 implies that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was significant enough to say in the first place.

When communication breaks down, it’s easy 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 significant communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as a reason to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John found 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 include? Tell us in a comment.

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