Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for each party. For individuals with hearing loss, partial hearing can be upsetting and draining, and for their conversation companions, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.
However, the difficulty can be lessened provided that both parties take responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, each parties should collaborate to beat the obstacles of hearing loss.
Below are a few useful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Go for full disclosure; don’t simply say that you have trouble hearing. Detail the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
- Suggest to your conversation partner things like:
- Maintain short distances in between us
- Face-to-face interaction is best
- Get my attention prior to talking with me
- Speak slowly and clearly without screaming
- Search for quiet places for conversations. Limit background noise by shutting off music, locating a quiet table at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.
Bear in mind that people are ordinarily empathetic, but only if you take some time to explain your circumstances. If your communication partner is mindful of your challenges and preferences, they’re considerably less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.
Tips 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 talking.
- Make sure the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Hold a consistent volume in your speech.
- Reduce background noise by finding quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the TV or radio.
- In group settings, make sure only one person is speaking at any given time.
- Remember that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be ready to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never use the phrase “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and suggests 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.
As an example, consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has average hearing, and they are having significant communication problems. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as a reason to be inattentive.
Instead, what if John searched for techniques to develop 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 difficulties. This is the only way to better communication.
Do you have any communication guidelines you’d like to include? Tell us in a comment.