Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for each party. For people with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and fatiguing, and for their conversation partners, the frequent repeating can be equally taxing.
However, the frustration can be alleviated as long as both parties take responsibility for effective communication. Since communication is a two-way process, each parties should work collectively to overcome the difficulties of hearing loss.
The following are some helpful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Go for complete disclosure; don’t just express that you have difficulty hearing. Clarify the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
- Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
- Keep short distances between us
- Face-to-face interaction is best
- Get my attention prior to speaking to me
- Talk slowly and clearly without screaming
- Search for tranquil places for conversations. Lessen background noise by turning off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have affectionate memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.
Keep in mind that people are ordinarily empathetic, but only when you take the time to explain your circumstances. If your communication partner is mindful of your challenges and preferences, they’re significantly less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.
Guidelines for those without hearing loss
If your communication partner has hearing loss:
- Get the person’s attention prior to speaking. Don’t yell from across the room and face the person when speaking.
- Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words diligently. Sustain a consistent volume in your speech.
- Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the television or radio.
- In group settings, make sure 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 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 implies that the person is not worth having to repeat what was significant enough to say in the first place.
When communication fails, it’s easy to blame the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.
Consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having significant communication problems. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as a reason to be inattentive.
Instead, what if John searched for tactics to develop his listening skills, and offered advice for Mary to communicate better? At the same time, 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 tips you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.