How to communicate with hearing loss

If a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, you’ll be only too aware of how hard it can be to converse with them. It can lead to frustration on all sides and a break down in communication. But, hearing loss doesn’t have to cause frustration between family and friends. We’ve come up with some tips to help with effective communication. Because it’s important to feel connected to your family and friends.

Helping to better understand what you can do to help and how to have a conversation with your loved one can make things easier in the long run. And, if you’re struggling to hear as well as you once could, it’s important to let people know that a few changes in their behaviour and increased awareness of your needs on their part makes a big difference to you.

So, when you’re talking to someone with hearing loss remember here’s some things to make it easier. Just remember to consider how you’re speaking, the other sounds around you and the space you’re in.

Speaking

  1. Try to find a different way of saying the same thing, rather than repeating the original words over and over. If the hearing-impaired person has difficulty understanding a particular phrase or word. 
  2. Introduce the topic of conversation and avoid sudden changes of topic. Think about what you’re saying and do your best to communicate clearly and well. If the subject changes, let the hearing-impaired person know so they can follow the course of the conversation. In a group setting, repeat questions or key facts before continuing with the discussion.
  3. Speak clearly, at a moderate pace, without shouting. Shouting distorts the sound of speech and makes it more difficult for someone else to understand your words.
  4. Say the person's name before beginning a conversation. This alerts the listener to the fact that you’re speaking to them and allows them to focus their attention on what you’re saying, as well as reducing the chance of them missing out on the beginning of the conversation.
  5. Pay attention to the listener. Keep an eye out for visual cues that they’re struggling to follow the conversation. Understanding each other can be hard enough at the best of times for all of us so be sensitive to the other person’s body language or changes in their facial expressions. If you notice that the other person is looking confused, tactfully ask if they’ve understood you, or ask them leading questions so you can be sure your message was received successfully.
  6. Take turns speaking and avoid interrupting other speakers. Effective communication can come down to good manners and common sense – being aware of your listener is always a good approach in any conversation.

Sounds

  1. If the person with hearing loss hears better in one ear than the other, position yourself accordingly and at about 3-6 feet away from their ‘good ear’.
  2. Many people with hearing loss are sensitive to loud sounds so avoid environments where this is likely to occur.
  3. Whenever possible, write down pertinent information. This prevents the hearing-impaired person from missing details of directions and appointments.
  4. Ask the person with hearing loss the best time for them to talk. If they’re tired or ill, it can be a lot harder for them to hear what someone else is saying.
  5. Face the hearing-impaired person and sit or stand at the same level as them. It’s highly likely that, without necessarily even realising it, the person with hearing loss relies on facial expressions, lip shapes and body language to help them hear, so make sure they can easily see your face.
  6. Find a suitable environment with good lighting, away from noise and distractions. Ensure the light is on the speaker’s face and not in the eyes of the person with hearing loss.
  7. Keep your hands away from your face and don’t eat while you’re talking. The old rule about never speaking with your mouth full especially applies here! Eating, chewing, covering your mouth while talking distorts your speech.
  8. Don’t talk from another room or move around while you’re talking. Not being able to see the other person is an obvious and common cause of difficulty following a conversation.

Above all, remember to employ tact and patience at all times. If you’re becoming agitated or frustrated you can make the person with hearing loss feel unsure and lose confidence in their ability to keep up with a conversation. It’s best to make sure they’re at ease and relaxed.

We encourage you at all times to talk over any questions or concerns you have regarding hearing loss with a hearing care professional. If you’re concerned a loved one is reluctant to address their hearing loss, we’ve got some ways to get the conversation started.