Communicating with People who Have Hearing Loss

Communicating with People who Have Hearing Loss

Dede Redfearn

We all need to be able to be able to overcome difficulties in communication. Having some knowledge and strategies in place when conversing with a person suffering from hearing loss is also necessary. In this day and age, we are experiencing a public health issue of great concern when it comes to a population that has hearing impairment issues. It is in fact one of the top three health concerns nationally.

It is always good to have some techniques in your repertoire to be able to converse with people that have challenges in communication due to hearing decline. The following are some techniques that will help you maintain a productive interaction with people that have hearing issues.

Tips for Communicating with People with Hearing Loss

Get their attention first by saying their name. This will signal to them that their attention and focus are required.

Wait until they are finished with their activity to get their attention or gently tap them on their shoulder to let them know their attention is needed.

Don’t interrupt them until they are finished speaking and if you are involved in a group conversation it is best to wait your turn and interrupting the others.

Pay attention to the person listening so that you can gauge their reactions. It is possible that if they don’t understand something you have said their facial expressions and body language will let you know that something is amiss. If you feel they haven’t understood something repeat yourself.

If repetition doesn’t work because the words or phrases you are using are hard for them to decipher, you should paraphrase. This is a key technique in making sure the listener is able to understand your questions, comments or responses.

Physical techniques, such as facing the person directly, are important as well. Try and situate yourselves in evenly distributed light so that both parties can read each other’s lips and expressions.

Stay in the same room as them when you are communicating. It’s not conducive to a productive chat when you are in a different room or have your back turned.

It is common for people that are suffering from hearing loss to have one ear that is more damaged than the other. If you have knowledge of which one, always situate yourself on the side of the healthier ear so that they can hear you better.

Shouting is not effective and neither is dragging each word out. What is effective is speaking clearly and concisely with a slightly longer pause in between each word.

Slow down the pace of your speech and avoid too many complex sentences. Once again, a longer pause between sentences can help you gauge whether the listener is understanding you before you go on further.

Do not eat, smoke or allow your hands in front of your face while you are speaking. Facial hair is also a disruptor when speaking to someone with hearing impairment as they are often reading lips, and or getting clues from your facial expressions as to understand the character of the conversation.

Location is key. Try and situate yourselves in an environment that has as little background noise as possible. It is quite challenging for the hearing impaired to differentiate speech from a noisy background and they have to work just that much harder on the conversation at hand.

In a free-flowing conversation, it is easy for us to switch topics but for the hearing impaired it is harder to keep up. Let them know where the current trend of conversation is going, or which topic is being discussed so that they can follow and engage. Providing the person with information about the topic beforehand is very helpful as well.

It’s best whenever possible to have things like directions and schedules written down so that both parties are on the same page.

Ask the person to repeat back numbers, addresses, times, and dates so that there are no mistakes when it comes to specifics and logistics.

Patience is tantamount. Remember that the hearing impaired are continually exerting themselves in order to keep up with you and are often quite tired from the strain.

Crescent City Hearing Center

Crescent City Hearing Center is here for all your hearing health needs. We encourage you to give us a call should you have any questions. If you or someone close to you needs to check on their hearing health, we would be more than happy to set you up with a comprehensive evaluation. With your first appointment, we can get you on the road to a happier, healthier hearing experience.