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Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for both parties. For those with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and fatiguing, and for their conversation companions, the frequent repeating can be equally taxing.

But the challenge can be lessened provided that both parties take responsibility for successful communication. Since communication is a two way process, each parties should work together to overcome the challenges of hearing loss.

Listed below are some useful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you suffer from hearing loss:

  • Aim at complete disclosure; don’t simply say that you have difficulty hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and supply tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
  • Suggest to your communication partner things such as:
    • Maintain short distances in between us
    • Face to face communication is best
    • Get my attention before speaking with me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without yelling
  • Search for quiet places for conversations. Minimize background noise by shutting off music, choosing a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have fond memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.

Bear in mind that people are ordinarily empathetic, but only when you make the effort to explain your circumstances. If your conversation partner is mindful of your challenges and preferences, they’re much less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your conversation partner has hearing loss:

  • Get the person’s attention prior to speaking. Don’t yell from across the room and face the person when speaking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and articulate your words carefully. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Reduce background noise by finding quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the television or radio.
  • In group settings, ensure that only one person is speaking at a time.
  • Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not the result of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and suggests that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say originally.

When communication fails, it’s easy to blame the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.

Consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having major communication issues. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.

As an alternative, what if John searched for tactics to develop his listening skills, and provided advice 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 taking responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the difficulties. This is the only path to better communication.

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

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