Communication is a two-way street. When one of the individuals has hearing loss, communication can prove difficult. Hearing aids can help, but if the listener does not use hearing technology, here are 9 tips to help improve communication with a loved one who is hard of hearing.
Reduce background noise
When talking to someone with hearing loss, try to reduce any background noise as much as possible. Turn off the radio or television, move away from crowds, and head to a quiet space away from any noisy distractions. If you find yourself out to dinner at a restaurant or at a larger social gathering with groups of people, choose seats away from the crowd or ask for a table far away from the kitchen or serving stations. This small adjustment can have a big impact on your ability to communicate effectively.
Keep your hands away from your face
Most listeners with hearing loss lip-read. Lip reading helps people with hearing loss to recognize speech sounds that are hard to hear, but easy to see, like a soft spoken “p.” When talking to people with hearing loss, try to keep your hands away from your face. Not only will you produce clearer speech, but you will make it easier for the listener to lip read.
Additionally, sit or stand in good lighting when talking to people with hearing loss. This way, your conversation partner can read lips more easily. Avoid bright lights coming from behind you, such as through a window or near a bright overhead light.
Get their attention
Before you begin speaking, gain the listener’s attention. You can say the person’s name, lightly touch the listener’s hand, arm, or shoulder, or simply give them a gesture like a small wave. These signs will prepare the listener for the conversation and serve as an invitation for them to start the dialog.
Ask what works best for them
Ask the person who is hard of hearing how you can better facilitate a conversation with them. People who are hard of hearing know how they can best listen, so ask them what works! Whether it is moving to the side of their better ear or asking for written cues, ask the listener what works best for them and their hearing. They will appreciate it!
Speak one at a time
If you are talking to people with hearing loss and find yourself in a group of people, make sure only one person speaks at a time. Include everyone in the conversation, but don’t talk over one another. This can make hearing difficult, even for people who don’t have hearing loss!
Maintain eye contact
When speaking to someone with hearing loss, be sure to face them and maintain eye contact. Facial expressions and body language serve as vital communication cues to the listener when participating in conversations
When talking to someone with hearing loss, speak naturally. Do not shout or exaggerate when you speak as this can actually distort your words. On the other hand, do not speak too softly or mumble as this can make hearing even more difficult for the listener. Instead, take the time to clearly enunciate your words and remember to speak at a normal rate. If you feel the need to slow down, try to insert thoughtful pauses throughout your conversation. Naturally pausing during the conversation gives the listener time to process the information being shared.
Rephrase, don’t repeat
If a listener is having difficulty understanding something you said, find a different way of saying it. Rephrase your statement in shorter, simpler sentences. Avoid repeating yourself because if the listener had trouble hearing you the first time, then it is likely they will not understand a second time.
There are plenty of suggestions to implement when talking to someone with hearing loss. Make sure to show respect to listeners who may be hard of hearing by staying positive and relaxed. And most importantly—be patient.
Although there are many tips and suggestions when speaking to a person with hearing loss, hearing aids may assist further. If your loved one is having trouble hearing and you think a hearing aid could help, introduce them to our FREE online hearing test, and get results instantly.