Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for both sides. For individuals with hearing loss, limited hearing can be stressful and draining, and for their conversation companions, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.
But the frustration can be lessened as long as both parties assume responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, each parties should collaborate to beat the difficulties of hearing loss.
Listed below are a few useful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you suffer from hearing loss:
- Go for full disclosure; don’t just state that you have difficulty hearing. Clarify the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best converse with you.
- Suggest to your conversation partner things like:
- Keep short distances in between us
- Face-to-face interaction is best
- Get my attention prior to speaking to me
- Talk slowly and clearly without shouting
- Search for tranquil areas for conversations. Limit background noise by shutting off music, finding a quiet table at a restaurant, or identifying 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.
Remember that people are normally empathetic, but only when you make the effort to explain your situation. If your conversation partner is conscious of your difficulties and requirements, they’re much 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 prior to speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when talking.
- Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Hold 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.
- Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself occasionally, and remember that this is not because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never say “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was important enough to say originally.
When communication breaks down, 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 normal hearing, and they are having major communication issues. John is convinced 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 searched for tactics to improve his listening skills, and provided advice for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and tried 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 path to better communication.
Do you have any communication guidelines you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.