Communicating effectively with someone experiencing hearing loss can be a challenge. With 466 million people worldwide reporting some form of hearing loss, it’s important to know the best strategies for communication: from understanding the individual’s level of hearing loss, to creating the ideal setting for conversation. When you know you are addressing someone with hearing loss, you can make a few simple adjustments in how you communicate with them that can make communication easier and efficient.
Clear Communication Skills
As you might know, some people are very open about their hearing loss, and they will ask you to make adjustments to help during a conversation. But often people either don’t realize they have hearing loss, are not ready to address their disability yet. Even for individuals who do have hearing aids, these devices cannot completely restore hearing. Hearing loss can be a challenge for both people communicating! Conversations require a lot of focus, energy and patience, so keep this in mind when conversing with people with hearing loss.
Below are some things that you can do to help facilitate great communication with others with hearing loss.
Choose your environment
Some environments are much easier for communication for people with hearing loss. Here are some things you can do to ensure the environment is perfect for communication:
- Make sure the room is well lit. People with hearing loss often rely upon lip reading, facial expressions and other visual signals to supplement their remaining hearing
- Pick a quiet place with minimum background noise. Though our ears and brain are able to filter out background noise in most situations, people with hearing loss often have a very difficult time hearing over excessive noise. If you do choose to communicate with someone with hearing loss in a public place, like a restaurant, there are ways to make the experience easier for them. Choose a restaurant that you have been to before, where you know the noise levels do not get too loud.
- During a group gathering at your home, if you’d like to have a conversation with a friend or family member with hearing loss, invite them to speak in a different, quieter room. Turn off the TV and any other sources of noise.
Tips for communicating
Here are some great things you can do to help facilitate better conversations and include someone with hearing loss:
- Don’t speak from another room or when your back is turned to the person.
- Sit or stand close to the person with hearing loss, but not so close that he or she can’t easily switch focus between maintaining eye contact and speech reading.
- If the person with hearing loss hears better in one ear, take note of that and try to speak more toward their right or left side.
- Before starting a conversation, say the person’s name so you can get his or her attention.
- Pay attention to the listener’s cues. People with hearing loss sometimes feel embarrassed or get tired of asking others to repeat themselves or clarify. If the person looks a bit puzzled, find a tactful way to ask if he or she understood you.
- In-group settings make sure to avoid speaking over each other.
- Make sure to keep your mouth uncovered. Don’t talk through a yawn or while chewing gum. This distorts your lip movements and makes it difficult for someone with hearing loss to speech read.
- Most importantly, don’t talk about a person with hearing loss as if she or he isn’t there. Instead, talk directly to that person and do your best to use the above and below tactics.
Sometimes, there will be a breakdown in communication. Here are some things that you can do to get back on track for successful conversation.
- Speak at a normal level. Sometimes it’s tempting to speak too loudly to someone with hearing loss, but this can distort the words.
- Provide the topic of conversation or key word to someone having difficulty understanding, especially if there has been a topic change.
- Spell a tricky word. For people with hearing loss, many consonants sound the same, which can trigger misunderstanding. Write it out on paper if necessary.
- Use gestures if they might help.
- Speak more slowly, but still clearly.
- Rephrase what you have said.
- If all else fails, try changing environments if the location to somewhere less chaotic.
Visit Us at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions
Are you struggling with speech and conversation in your daily life? Hearing loss is an invisible condition and often takes years to gradually develop. If you have noticed that speech recognition is difficult, especially in noisy environments, it could be a sign of hearing loss. Contact us at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions to schedule a hearing test and take control of your hearing health!