Communicating with people with hearing loss is often difficult and frustrating for BOTH sides of the conversation. Here we have provided some tips to help minimise this frustration, including:
- Tips for communicating for people with hearing loss
- Tip for people communicating with people with hearing loss
- Environment tips to aid communication
For people with hearing loss
Don’t guess what people are saying
For reasons of pride, many people with hearing loss do their best to hide or deny their hearing difficulties. This is a BIG mistake. It doesn’t fool anyone, and it can make you look rather silly. It is much better to be recognised as someone with hearing difficulties than a person with a fading mental capacity. Most people are happy to help someone with a hearing loss, but less inclined to help someone they perceive as stupid.
Hearing loss can be a problem, but it’s your job more than anyone else to take steps to overcome its’ limitations. A positive attitude shown to people you communicate with will greatly improve their willingness to meet you half way.
There are better ways to ask for help
On one hand you could say: “Can you speak up… you are not speaking clearly enough.”
But you are likely to get a much better response if you say: “Sorry, I have a little trouble hearing. Could you speak up a little, because what you say is important to me”.
Be specific with the help you ask for
Be specific when telling someone how they can help you better understand. Here are some examples:
Tell them you can miss things if you don’t know who is talking. Ask them to get your attention before they start to talk.
- Tell them that you can’t hear if more than one person is talking at the same time. Ask that only one person talk at a time.
- Tell them that quick topic changes often cause you to lose the thread … ask that they help you understand the topic.
- Tell them that you read lips, so it’s important for you to be able to see their face.
If you didn’t hear something, don’t just say “What?” or “Huh”. Tell them what you DID hear and ask them to repeat the part you missed … For example say: “I heard you are going on a trip, but I missed when you are leaving.”
- Say, “I don’t hear well in noisy situations, Let’s move over to this quiet corner”.
Understand their perspective
Also understand and communicate the tips provided below people who are talking to people with hearing impairment.
Pick your best spot.
Choose a position that’s quiet, and has good lighting. If you hear better in your left ear, consider that when choosing your position. Arrive at meetings early and sit where you can hear (and see) best.
Think ahead and plan for what is likely to follow. For example, you should certainly expect “Do you want fries with that?” when you order anything at a fast food restaurant … even french fries. So, be ready for it. It’s easier to hear, when you expect it.
Prevent Difficult Situations, Before They Happen
If you are thinking ahead, you can prevent problems. For example, continuing with our fast food example: plan your order so that all the questions are answered. “I’ll have a double cheeseburger, medium fries and a small coffee, cream and sugar … to go” . Notice how this resolves most of the problem areas. There is no need for them to even ask “Do you want fries with that?”. If you are following the “anticipate” rule, above, you will hear them when they ask anyway. Try not to laugh.
Concentrate on the speaker … Even people with normal hearing use visual cues of facial expressions, body language and lip movement to help them understand better. As a hard of hearing person, you must learn to use these as effectively as possible.
Take the Pressure Off
The person you are speaking with may be apprehensive, because they don’t know how to help. Let them know that your hearing loss is YOUR problem … not THEIRS. Notice that most of the above examples are phrased to do just that … people will want to help if they don’t feel threatened and if they know how to help. If people are given the impression that they are being attacked because they aren’t helping correctly, then they might become defensive.
Show Your Appreciation
When someone goes out of their way to help you, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate their help.
Communication Tips: For the person with normal hearing
Be supportive of the person with hearing loss
- Accompany them to their hearing evaluation and other hearing care appointments
- Education about hearing loss leads to better communication and understanding
- Always get the listener’s attention before speaking
- Say the person’s name
Do not shout!
Shouting distorts the face and makes you look angry.
Speak clearly and moderately
Say the “ends” of all your words. Rather than “How’r ya feelin t’day?” say “How are you feeling today?”
Do not cover your mouth or speak with objects in it
Objects in front of the mouth impede speechreading
Use gestures or sign language when talking…
- Gestures help with understanding. For example, if asking “what time is it?”, point to your watch
- Sign Language is useful and interesting to learn, and can connect you with a larger Deaf and hard of hearing community; take a class at a local community college
Rephrase rather than repeat
If the listener didn’t understand the first time, specific words may be difficult; try saying it a different way
It is just as frustrating for the listener who has hearing loss as it is for you when there is a breakdown in understanding; share the responsibility.
Environmental Tips to Improve Communication
Reduce background noise
- Turn off radio / television / stereo
- Suggest moving to a quite location
Reduce the distance between you and the listener
Do not try to talk to the person from a different room
Good lighting is essential
- Light should be on the speaker’s face, not shining into the listener’s eyes
- Listeners with hearing loss draw visual cues from the lips and face, as well as gestures