Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for both parties. For individuals with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and fatiguing, and for their conversation companions, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.

But the frustration can be alleviated providing both parties take responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, the two parties should work together to conquer the difficulties of hearing loss.

The following are a few useful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Aim for complete disclosure; don’t simply say that you have difficulty hearing. Detail the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
    • Keep short distances between us
    • Face to face communication is best
    • Get my attention prior to talking with me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without yelling
  • Find quiet places for conversations. Reduce background noise by turning off music, locating a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have affectionate memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.

Keep in mind that people are typically empathetic, but only if you make the effort to clarify your circumstances. If your communication partner is aware of your challenges and preferences, they’re far less likely to become angry when communication is disrupted.

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your conversation partner has hearing loss:

  • Get 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 enunciate your words diligently. Hold a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by finding quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the television or radio.
  • In group settings, make sure only one person is speaking at any given time.
  • Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not a comprehension problem. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself on occasion, and remember that this is not because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never use the phrase “never mind.” This expression 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 average hearing, and they are having major communication issues. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.

As an alternative, what if John found methods to enhance 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 accepting responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the problems. This is the only route to better communication.

Do you have any communication recommendations you’d like to include? Let us know in a comment.

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