Communication Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

Even with the best hearing aids there will be times when you misunderstand what someone has said. To minimize the frustrations that may occur when this happens, try the following:

Watch the speaker

An optimal distance for communication is three to six feet. Position yourself so that the speaker’s face is well lit and so that light is not in your eyes. Watch the speaker’s face for expressions and lip movements that can add to the meaning of what you hear.

If you miss something that was said, ask for repetition

Tell the speaker why you misunderstood so that the message is not repeated in the same fashion. For example: “Please repeat that a bit more slowly.” Provide guidance so that they do not need to repeat the full message. For example: “What time did you say you were going to visit your sister on Saturday?” This requires a much more brief response than “Huh?”

Minimize noise distractions

Noisy areas can create difficult listening situations, even for those with normal hearing. When possible, turn off competing sound sources (TV, radio, dishwasher, etc.) or move away from the noise source. If your hearing aids have directional microphones, make sure to position yourself with your back to the noise source.

Pay attention to the context or subject of the conversation

The context of the conversation can often help you to fill in words you may have missed.

Write out important information

Instructions, or key words such as addresses telephone numbers, measurements, dollar figures and so on should be written down to avoid confusion.

Do not bluff

Bluffing robs you of opportunities to practice good communication skills. Not informing others about your hearing loss increases the occurrence of misinterpretations and the possibility of damaged relationships.

Suggestions When Speaking to Someone with Hearing Loss

Do not shout

Shouting can actually distort the signal in the listener’s ears. Be sure the listener has a clear view of your face so that facial expressions and lip movements are visible and speak slightly louder than normal.

Speak clearly and slowly

Pausing between sentences can also be helpful. The best distance for communication is three to six feet.

Make sure you have the listener’s attention

Saying the person’s name and waiting for a response can greatly decrease the need for repetition.

Rephrase your statements if needed

Quite often, the same one or two words in a sentence will continue to be misheard with each repetition. Rephrasing eliminates many frustrations.

Avoid conversation if there is much background noise

Noisy distractions can create difficult listening situations even for those with normal hearing. Always invite the person with hearing loss to a quieter side of the room, or turn off the noise distractions.

Remain patient, positive and relaxed

Communication can be difficult sometimes. When communication partners become impatient, negative and tense, communication will become more difficult. When in doubt, ask the person with hearing loss for suggestions of ways to be better understood.

From Hearing Loss magazine September/October 2002

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