Two women having a conversation outside

Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for both parties. For people with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and exhausting, and for their conversation partners, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.

But the difficulty can be lessened provided that both parties take responsibility for productive communication. Since communication is a two way process, the two parties should collaborate to overcome the obstacles of hearing loss.

The following are some helpful tips for effective communication.

Guidelines for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Strive for full disclosure; don’t just point out that you have trouble hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
    • Maintain small distances between us
    • Face to face interaction is best
    • Get my attention before speaking with me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without screaming
  • Choose tranquil areas for conversations. Reduce background noise by shutting off music, locating a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have happy memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.

Bear in mind that people are usually empathetic, but only if you take some time to explain your circumstances. If your conversation partner is mindful of your difficulties and preferences, they’re considerably less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your communication partner has hearing loss:

  • Gain the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t yell from across the room and face the person when talking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and articulate your words carefully. Sustain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the television or radio.
  • In group settings, make sure only one person is speaking at any given time.
  • Remember that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not a comprehension problem. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not the result of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and suggests that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was significant enough to say in the first place.

When communication breaks down, it’s easy to pin the blame on 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 serious 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.

As an alternative, what if John searched for tactics to improve his listening skills, and offered tips for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and attempted 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 road to better communication.

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

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