It is commonly said that when one person has a hearing loss, the whole family has a hearing problem. Communication difficulties can be frustrating for everyone. Properly fitted hearing aids are, of course, the best means of treatment available for hearing loss, but the addition of some simple communication strategies can help you make the most of your hearing aids. Here are some strategies that can help you overcome communication difficulties:
Strategies the hearing impaired person can use
- Be sure you can see your communication partner’s face. Even if you don’t think you lip-read, we all use visual cues to aid our hearing, and having hearing loss means those visual cues are even more important!
- Try to avoid noisy environments when possible. Ask to be seated in a quieter section of the restaurant. Go out to eat at off-peak hours, when the restaurant won’t be as busy. Turn off the TV or music if you’re trying to talk to someone.
- If you need to ask someone to repeat what they said, be specific about what you need clarified. Don’t just say “Huh?” or “What?” if you heard part of the sentence – say “You said you had houseguests this weekend, but I didn’t catch who that was.”
- Remember to focus on listening. Hearing isn’t as easy for you as it once was, so multitasking may be harder.
- Advocate for yourself! Don’t be afraid to tell people you have a hearing loss, or to ask for what you need.
Strategies their communication partners can use
- Speak slowly and clearly, but still naturally. This is much more helpful than shouting, which can actually distort speech and make lip-reading harder.
- Face the hearing impaired person directly, and never try to talk to them from another room. It is much easier for them to hear and understand you if they can see your face.
- Say the person’s name before talking to them. Getting their attention first minimizes the risk of them missing the beginning of your sentence.
- Keep your hands away from your face when talking.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full – this distorts your speech and makes speech reading very difficult!
- Avoid sudden changes of subject. Try to keep the conversation easy to follow.
- Understand that hearing is not all or nothing. Someone with hearing loss may hear you but not understand what you said, or may miss some sounds but not others.
- Be patient and don’t get frustrated if the person asks for repetition or clarification. Don’t say “never mind” or leave them out of conversations just because communication is a little harder; this makes the person feel isolated. A little effort goes a long way!