Improving Communication in the Presence of Hearing Loss
Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be frustrating—for both parties. For individuals with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and fatiguing, and for their communication partners, the frequent repeating can be equally taxing.
But the frustration can be alleviated provided that both parties assume responsibility for productive communication. Since communication is a two way process, both parties should collaborate to beat the obstacles of hearing loss.
Below are a few useful tips for effective communication.
Guidelines for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Go for full disclosure; don’t just express that you have trouble hearing. Clarify the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your communication partner things such as:
- Keep short distances in between us
- Face to face interaction is best
- Get my attention before talking to me
- Speak slowly and clearly without screaming
- Choose quiet places for conversations. Limit background noise by shutting off music, looking for a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.
Keep in mind that people are normally empathetic, but only if you make an effort to clarify your circumstances. If your communication partner is conscious of your difficulties and requirements, they’re much less likely to become angry when communication is disrupted.
Tips for those without hearing loss
If your conversation partner has hearing loss:
- Gain the person’s attention prior to speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when talking.
- Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
- Limit background noise by finding quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the television or radio.
- In group settings, ensure that 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 on occasion, and remember that this is not due to a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never say “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and implies that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.
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 issues. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes that John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.
As an alternative, what if John searched for methods to improve 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 taking responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the problems. This is the only way to better communication.
Do you have any communication tips you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.