Communicating with People who Have Hearing Loss

Communicating with People who Have Hearing Loss

Olga Lis, MS, CCC-A

Did you know that around one in every eight Americans lives with significant hearing loss? Hearing loss is incredibly common, and odds are someone close to you manages hearing loss in their life. While hearing loss is widespread, information about how to make communication accommodations is not. Accommodating hearing loss is done through simple considerations that make it easier for the person with hearing challenges to pick up what is being said. The icing on the cake is that these aren’t just tips for accommodating hearing loss, they will help you be a better communicator no matter who you are speaking with.

Choose the Right Space

There are some environments that facilitate better hearing and some that can make hearing loss a nightmare. If someone you are speaking with is struggling to hear, look to move the conversation to a quieter and better suited spot for listening. Settings that have smooth, hard surfaces (like cement floors), high ceilings or a lot of people or background noise will be exceptionally challenging for impaired hearing.

Instead, seek out conversational space that has upholstery or textiles that can dampen noise. 

Speaking near to a wall or corner can help improve focus, clarity and direction for a person with hearing loss. Finding a space where you aren’t fighting to be heard over music, clatter or other conversations is also key to helping someone hear.

Be Gracious

Even when someone is using hearing aids, hearing loss can still create confusion or lead to missed meanings. A person with hearing loss may ask you to repeat things frequently or to speak louder. Simply honor their requests and don’t treat it like a personal critique or a pain in the neck. Hearing challenges are invisible, but they are real. Being patient in a conversation helps everyone follow along and ultimately more gets to be said. 

If someone is struggling to decipher a certain turn of phrase even if it is repeated, just try rephrasing it for them. Often misinterpreting similar consonant sounds or similar-sounding words can confuse the meaning, and rephrasing gives more context.

Do Specifics In Writing

When it comes to conveying details, try to do so in writing or texting. Some examples would be letting someone know an address or phone number or perhaps relaying a multi-item shopping list. Writing down easily misheard details can make the listener’s work much easier. What if there’s not a good way to give them information in writing? When you can’t write down the specifics, make sure you ask the other person to repeat them back to you to make sure you were correctly heard.

Be In View

With hearing loss, many people rely on their vision to fill in some of the work their hearing can’t do. While that may seem strange, it really is quite natural – people rely on body language and lip reading to provide clues and context for what is being said. With this in mind, you’ll want to be as visible as possible when speaking with someone with hearing loss. 

Don’t try to get someone’s attention from a different room or behind them. Also, it helps to start with a person’s name when addressing them. Even if they haven’t noticed you speaking, many people are sensitive to the sound of their name. Face a person directly when speaking with them.

Use Technology

These days technology is providing great new resources for those with hearing loss to communicate fluidly, even in settings where hearing is challenging. If you find yourself in a setting that is too noisy or complicated to hold a spoken conversation, try talking across text messages. Even if you are right next to each other, using text instead of speech can make comprehension less stressful. 

Another fantastic tool for those with hearing challenges is the rise of auto-generated live captioning which can make formats like video chatting much easier. Live captioning options are being rolled out on most new video conferencing apps, including Zoom. 

Ask What Works

Most importantly, your friend, coworker or loved one can tell you what works best for their hearing. If you are speaking with someone with hearing challenges ask how you can accommodate them. Everyone’s hearing loss is particular to them, and they can help you be a better communicator.

If you have questions about hearing or want to monitor your hearing abilities with an annual hearing test, contact us today! We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to support you on the journey to better hearing.