Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for both sides. For those with hearing loss, limited hearing can be stressful and draining, and for their conversation partners, the constant repeating can be just as taxing.
But the frustration can be alleviated provided that both parties assume responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, the two parties should work collectively to beat the difficulties of hearing loss.
Listed below are some useful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you suffer from hearing loss:
- Strive for complete disclosure; don’t simply point out that you have difficulty hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your communication partner things such as:
- Maintain small distances in between us
- Face to face communication is best
- Get my attention before speaking to me
- Speak slowly and clearly without yelling
- Choose quiet places for conversations. Reduce background noise by shutting off music, locating a quiet table at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have happy memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.
Keep in mind that people are usually empathetic, but only if you make an effort to explain your circumstances. If your communication partner is mindful of your challenges and preferences, they’re significantly less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.
Guidelines for those without hearing loss
If your communication partner has hearing loss:
- Gain the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when speaking.
- Make sure the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Hold a consistent volume in your speech.
- Limit background noise by finding quiet areas for discussions. 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 prepared to have to repeat yourself occasionally, and remember that this is not caused by a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never use the phrase “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say originally.
When communication fails, it’s convenient 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 normal hearing, and they are having considerable communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.
Instead, what if John found ways to develop his listening skills, and provided tips for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and tried 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 add? Let us know in a comment.