3 Tips for Better
Communication with Hearing Loss
We’ve all been in that position at one point or another where we can’t hear the conversations going on around us and we’ve asked “what?” or “huh?” so many times until we just ignore the problem and smile and nod, hoping to move a conversation forward. This situation happens more often if you have diminished hearing or hearing loss. Hopefully, you can remedy these situations with the use of hearing aids.
However, even when adjusted and worn appropriately, hearing aids are not always perfect. Some listening situations are less than ideal, resulting in miscommunication. It’s important for everyone—especially if you have hearing loss—to keep in mind some basic communication tips so you can handle these situations more effectively.
1. Take Control of the Situation
First, be your own advocate. You can avoid many communication issues by being proactive. If the person you’re talking with speaks too quickly, too quietly, or has an accent, or you know you’ll be somewhere with significant background noise, suggest moving to a quieter area to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings.
You can also ask the speaker to rephrase instead of repeat; slow down; and look directly at you when they’re speaking. If necessary, write down important details.
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
People with hearing loss often struggle to understand conversations in noisy venues or large gatherings, especially if there are hard floors and walls where the acoustics are louder and there are more distracting noises. If you have input, opt for a quieter space with carpet and other sound absorbing fabrics.
In restaurants, choose a booth away from noisy areas like the bar, kitchen, or restrooms. If none of those options are available, find an area with good lighting and stand or sit less than six feet from whomever you’re speaking with.
You can also implement these tips in the home by using sound absorbing materials, reducing background noise, and ensuring good lighting and seating arrangements.
3. Pay Attention to Body Gestures and Facial Cues
You probably don’t realize how often you lip-read and use gestures to supplement what you’re hearing. Even without formal training, you can pay attention to facial cues to help improve your speech understanding; that’s why it’s important to have good lighting. Of course using body gestures and facial cues requires the person you’re having a conversation with be in the same room.
Remember, understanding speech is more difficult when you’re tired, stressed, or distracted.
Knowing and using these tips can help anyone—whether you have hearing loss or not—communicate more effectively. When understanding becomes tricky, the speaker and listener should be patient with each other and find a solution that works for both.