Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be frustrating—for both parties. For individuals with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and fatiguing, and for their communication companions, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.
But the difficulty can be mitigated provided that both parties take responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, both parties should work together to conquer the obstacles of hearing loss.
Here are some helpful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Aim at full disclosure; don’t just state that you have trouble hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your communication partner things like:
- Keep short distances in between us
- Face to face communication is best
- Get my attention prior to talking with me
- Talk slowly and clearly without shouting
- Find quiet places for conversations. Limit background noise by shutting off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
- Retain a sense of humor. Our patients often have happy memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.
Remember that people are usually empathetic, but only when you take some time to explain your position. If your communication partner is aware of your challenges and requirements, they’re considerably less likely to become angry when communication is disrupted.
Guidelines for those without hearing loss
If your communication partner has hearing loss:
- Gain the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout 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 discussions. Turn off the television or radio.
- In groups, ensure that only one person is speaking at any given time.
- Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not a comprehension problem. Be prepared to repeat yourself on occasion, and remember that this is not because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never use the phrase “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and implies that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say in the first place.
When communication fails, it’s convenient 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 considerable communication issues. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.
Instead, what if John searched for ways to improve his listening skills, and provided tips 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 accepting responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the problems. This is the only road to better communication.
Do you have any communication recommendations you’d like to add? Let us know in a comment.