Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for each party. For people with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and fatiguing, and for their communication partners, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.

However, the frustration can be mitigated provided that both parties take responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two way process, each parties should collaborate to beat the obstacles of hearing loss.

The following are some helpful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you suffer from hearing loss:

  • Go for complete disclosure; don’t just point out that you have difficulty hearing. Describe the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
    • Keep short distances in between us
    • Face-to-face interaction is best
    • Get my attention prior to talking to me
    • Speak slowly and clearly without shouting
  • Choose tranquil places for conversations. Reduce background noise by shutting off music, locating a quiet table at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have happy memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.

Bear in mind that people are normally empathetic, but only if you make the effort to explain your circumstances. If your communication partner is cognizant of your difficulties and preferences, they’re considerably 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 speaking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and articulate your words carefully. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Reduce background noise by choosing quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • In groups, ensure that only one person is speaking at a time.
  • Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not a comprehension problem. Be ready to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and implies that the person is not worth having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.

When communication fails, it’s easy to blame the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.

As an example, consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having significant communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes that John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.

As an alternative, what if John searched for ways to develop his listening skills, and offered tips for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and tried 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 difficulties. This is the only road to better communication.

Do you have any communication guidelines you’d like to include? Tell us in a comment.