Communicating when there is a hearing loss is frustrating for everyone involved. When you have partial hearing loss, it’s exhausting for both you and your communication partners, fraught with constant repeating that is taxing.
That frustration is avoidable when both parties take responsibility for success, though. Effective communication works both ways. In other words, both parties need to work to overcome the challenges of hearing loss. Consider some tips to get you started.
What to Do When You Have Hearing Loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Be honest about your hearing challenge. First, don’t just state that you have trouble hearing. Explain the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Make suggestions to keep things flowing:
- Keep short distances between us
- Face to face communication is best
- Get my attention before speaking to me
- Speak slowly and clearly without shouting
- Find quiet areas for conversations. Limit background noise by turning off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.
Remember that people are generally empathetic, but only if you take the time to explain your situation. If your conversation partner is aware of your difficulties and preferences, they’re less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.
How About When Talking to Someone With Hearing Loss
If your communication partner has hearing loss:
- Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when talking.
- Make sure the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
- Limit background noise by finding quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the TV or radio.
In group settings, make sure 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 on occasion, and remember that this is not due to a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never say “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and suggests that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say in the first place.
When communication fails, it’s easy to blame the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.
Consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having major communication problems. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.
Instead, what if John found ways to improve his listening skills, and provided tips for Mary to communicate better? At the same time, what if Mary did the same and tried to find ways that she could communicate more clearly.
Now, both John and Mary are taking responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the difficulties. This is the only path to better communication.
Do you have any communication tips you’d like to add? Let us know in a comment.