Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be frustrating—for both sides. For those with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and fatiguing, and for their communication partners, the constant repeating can be just as taxing.

However, the frustration can be mitigated providing both parties take responsibility for productive communication. Since communication is a two-way process, both parties should work collectively to overcome the difficulties of hearing loss.

Below are a few helpful tips for effective communication.

Guidelines for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Strive for full disclosure; don’t simply point out that you have trouble hearing. Detail the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
    • Maintain short distances between us
    • Face-to-face communication is best
    • Get my attention prior to talking to me
    • Speak slowly and clearly without screaming
  • Search for quiet places for conversations. Reduce background noise by shutting off music, looking for a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have fond memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now chuckle about.

Bear in mind that people are normally empathetic, but only if you make the effort to explain your position. If your conversation partner is conscious of your difficulties and preferences, they’re significantly less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.

Tips 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 carefully. Sustain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by finding quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • In group settings, ensure that 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 prepared to have to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not caused by a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worth having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.

When communication fails, it’s convenient to pin the blame on the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.

As an example, consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having significant communication issues. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes that John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John searched for techniques to enhance his listening skills, and provided advice for Mary to communicate better? At the same time, 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 path to better communication.

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

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