Communication Tips for Individuals with a Hearing Loss
- Look directly at the person who is talking. Try to have the speaker face you as directly as possible.
- Try to be on the same level as the speaker. Both you and the speaker should be sitting or standing together.
- Situate yourself to be between three and six feet from the speaker. If the speaker if further away than six feet, it will be more difficult to see his or her face. If he or she is closer than three feet, it will be more difficult to focus on the speaker’s face.
- Be sure the speaker is not in front of a window or a light. If they are, it will be more difficult for you to see his or her face if you are looking into the light.
- Be sure you are in the same room with the person when you are having a conversation. This will eliminate some of the frustration of having to repeat information.
- Eliminate as much background noise as possible, such as radios, televisions, running water, and other people talking. Either move away from the source of the noise, or turn the volume of the noise down.
- Be aware of the non-verbal information in a conversation. Watch the speaker’s lips, facial expressions and gestures. Also be aware of the situation and topic of conversation. Make connections between what the speaker is saying and doing.
- Try to get the main idea of a sentence of conversation. Do not try to get every word or sound. Learn to fill in what you did not hear or see. Focus on key words or movements that may give clues to the rest of a sentence.
Sensible Strategies for Better Communication with People with Hearing Loss
If you have a friend, family member or coworker who has a hearing loss, how can you help?
While all of us sometimes struggle to communicate effectively, people who have a hearing loss face an even greater challenge. By following a few simple strategies those of us who are friends, families and coworkers can make this challenge less difficult and probably find ourselves communicating more effectively with everyone around us.
General Tips for Talking with a Person with Hearing Loss
Always face the person when you are talking to them. Keep your hands away from your face.
- You do not need to talk loud, or to shout. Do talk clearly, without mumbling, and try not to talk fast. Do not exaggerate mouth movements to help with lip reading. Rephrase rather than repeating missed words. Do not eat, chew or smoke while talking.
- If you think the person you know has a hearing loss, encourage them to get a hearing screening. Studies show that most people who decide to get their hearing checked do so because a friend or family member suggested it.
Tips for Social Gatherings at your Home
- Turn up the lights. Most people who are hard of hearing rely on seeing the person talking to help them communicate. So while the low lights might seem cozy and relaxing, it might be a communication hindrance for your guest(s).
- Turn down the music. Perhaps the biggest hindrance to effective communication for people who are hard of hearing is background noise. Loud stereos or televisions (even running water) can be a real source of frustration.
Tips for Visiting a Restaurant
- Consider the acoustics. Hardwood floors and high ceilings make it difficult to communicate. Look for places that are carpeted and that have seating areas off to the side, or in more private areas.
- Consider your timing. Friday nights at the Mexican restaurant with the mariachi band may sound like fun, but your guest(s) who are hard of hearing may not hear a thing you say. Plan on going out to eat at times when there are less people, or when there will not be live entertainment.
Tips for a Meeting at Work
- Visual information helps. Typed agendas, PowerPoint presentations, etc., are great helps for people with hearing loss.
- One at a time. If two people are having their own private conversation, or more than one person is talking at a time, everyone is distracted, especially a person who is hard of hearing. It can also be helpful if the person leading the meeting calls on a person preparing to talk, or at least gestures towards them. It often takes a few seconds for a hard of hearing person to figure out where the voice is coming from, so a cue from the leader can really help.
- Is this the best place? Environmental noise such as phones ringing, copying machines running, etc., makes it harder for a person who has a hearing loss. Try to find a room where the door can be closed and people can sit as close together as possible.
Many people who begin to lose their hearing may deny the problem and begin to withdraw and isolate themselves. Hearing aids and other technologies can really make a difference in someone's life. Encourage your family and friends to do something about their hearing loss.
Source: Dr. Terry Portis is the executive director of Hearing Loss Association of America, the nation's foremost consumer advocacy organization for people with hearing loss. Terry's wife, Denise, has a significant hearing loss as a result of a childhood accident. This information taken from the American Academy of Audiology website.