Hearing loss affects people in a wide variety of ways. Some have an especially hard time understanding conversations in noisy environments while others have hearing loss related to high frequencies. How every person experiences hearing loss is unique to their particular situation. If someone you love has difficulty hearing, you probably want to do all you can to improve your ability to communicate with them. Here are some suggestions on how to best communicate with someone who has hearing loss.
Although many people are uncomfortable about the extent of their hearing loss, it may be best to just come right out and ask the person what you can do to make communication easier. Should you go to a quieter place? Do they need to look right at you when you talk? Opening up this dialogue can take a great deal of the stress away for both of you. Over time, it may become much less of a tough subject.
People with hearing loss often use visual cues to help understand what you are saying. Therefore, it helps to get the person’s attention by saying their name first or gently touching their hand or arm, if it is appropriate to your relationship. If the person hears better out of one ear, move to that side.
Face the person you are speaking to and look them in the eye. The listener will take into account not only the words you are saying, but also your facial expressions and hand gestures.
Many individuals with hearing loss unconsciously begin to read the lips of the people with whom they are speaking. So, speak clearly and naturally. Don’t chew gum or attempt to talk with food in your mouth, as it will distort the shape of your lips and make interpreting more difficult.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not helpful to shout at a person who is hard of hearing. This actually distorts the words and makes them harder to understand. Instead, talk clearly at a normal rate, taking care not to mumble. Pause now and then to give your listener time to catch up. If he or she doesn’t understand something you say, rephrase it. Don’t just repeat the same thing over again.
If possible, have your meeting in a place with minimal background noise and good lighting. This will enable the other person to have full access to all the listening skills he or she has developed. It will also minimize distractions and enable both of you to concentrate on your discussion. Learn more about how hearing loss and background noise intersect.
Don’t wait any longer. If your loved one is experiencing hearing loss but hasn’t been diagnosed yet, encourage them to seek help and treat their hearing loss. You can schedule a free hearing evaluation.
In many ways, communicating with someone with hearing loss is no different than talking to any other person. Doing all you can to create an environment that is conducive for conversation is really all you need to remember. In most cases, the person you are talking to will pick up on your sensitivity to his or her needs and will respond positively to your respectful approach to hearing loss communication needs.
It can be difficult to communicate with a loved one about their hearing troubles. Use our free conversation guide to prepare yourself and make sure that you're able to get help for your loved ones.