Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be frustrating—for both parties. For people with hearing loss, limited hearing can be stressful and exhausting, and for their communication companions, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.

But the difficulty can be mitigated as long as both parties assume responsibility for effective communication. Since communication is a two way process, both parties should work together to overcome the challenges of hearing loss.

The following are a few helpful tips for effective communication.

Guidelines for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Go for full disclosure; don’t simply state that you have trouble hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and supply tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
  • Suggest to your communication partner things like:
    • Keep small distances in between us
    • Face to face communication is best
    • Get my attention prior to speaking with me
    • Speak slowly and clearly without shouting
  • Search for quiet places for conversations. Minimize background noise by shutting off music, locating a quiet table at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have affectionate memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.

Remember that people are usually empathetic, but only if you take the time to explain your situation. If your conversation partner is conscious of your challenges and requirements, they’re much less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.

Tips for those without hearing loss

If your conversation partner has hearing loss:

  • Get the person’s attention prior to speaking. Don’t yell from across the room and face the person when speaking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Hold a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the television 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 a comprehension problem. Be ready to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not the result of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never use the phrase “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was important enough to say in the first place.

When communication breaks down, 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 average hearing, and they are having significant communication issues. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as a reason to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John found ways to improve 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 problems. This is the only way to better communication.

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