Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for both parties. For individuals with hearing loss, partial hearing can be upsetting and tiring, and for their communication partners, the constant repeating can be just as taxing.
However, the difficulty can be mitigated provided that both parties assume responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, both parties should collaborate to overcome the obstacles of hearing loss.
Below are some useful tips for effective communication.
Guidelines for those with hearing loss
If you suffer from hearing loss:
- Aim for full disclosure; don’t just state that you have difficulty hearing. Identify the cause of your hearing loss and supply recommendations for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
- Maintain small distances between us
- Face to face communication is best
- Get my attention before talking with me
- Talk slowly and clearly without yelling
- Find quiet locations for conversations. Limit background noise by shutting off music, choosing a quiet table at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have affectionate memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.
Remember that people are generally empathetic, but only if you make an effort to clarify your position. If your communication partner is cognizant of your challenges and preferences, they’re significantly less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.
Tips for those without hearing loss
If your communication 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.
- Make sure the person can see your lips and articulate your words carefully. Hold a consistent volume in your speech.
- Limit background noise by choosing 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 a comprehension 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 worth having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.
When communication breaks down, it’s convenient to pin the blame on the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.
Consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has average hearing, and they are having serious communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as a reason to be inattentive.
Instead, what if John found ways to enhance his listening skills, and offered advice for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, 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 problems. This is the only path to better communication.
Do you have any communication tips you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.