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Two women having a conversation outside

Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for each party. For those with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and fatiguing, and for their conversation partners, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.

However, the challenge can be mitigated providing both parties take responsibility for effective communication. Since communication is a two way process, each parties should collaborate to beat the challenges of hearing loss.

Below are some helpful tips for effective communication.

Guidelines for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Aim for full disclosure; don’t just express that you have trouble hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and supply recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your communication partner things such as:
    • Maintain short distances between us
    • Face-to-face interaction is best
    • Get my attention before speaking with me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without shouting
  • Choose quiet places for conversations. Minimize background noise by turning off music, locating 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 absurd misunderstandings that they can now chuckle about.

Remember that people are ordinarily empathetic, but only if you take the time to clarify your position. If your communication partner is mindful of your difficulties and preferences, they’re less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.

Tips for those without hearing loss

If your conversation partner has hearing loss:

  • Gain the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when talking.
  • Make sure the person can see your lips and articulate your words diligently. Preserve a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Reduce background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the television or radio.
  • In group settings, make sure only one person is speaking at a 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 expression is dismissive and suggests that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was important enough to say in the first place.

When communication breaks down, it’s easy to pin the blame on 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 major 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 found 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 attempted 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 difficulties. This is the only route to better communication.

Do you have any communication tips you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.