Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for both sides. For individuals with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and exhausting, and for their communication companions, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.
However, the challenge can be lessened provided that both parties assume responsibility for effective conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, the two parties should work collectively to conquer the obstacles of hearing loss.
Below are a few useful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Strive for complete disclosure; don’t simply express that you have trouble hearing. Describe 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 interaction is best
- Get my attention before speaking with me
- Speak slowly and clearly without screaming
- Find tranquil places for conversations. Lessen background noise by shutting off music, locating a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have affectionate memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.
Remember that people are generally empathetic, but only if you make the effort to explain your situation. If your communication partner is advised of your difficulties and preferences, they’re considerably less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.
Guidelines for those without hearing loss
If your conversation partner has hearing loss:
- Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when talking.
- Make sure the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
- Limit background noise by finding quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the TV or radio.
- In groups, ensure that only one person is speaking at any given time.
- Remember that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be prepared to repeat yourself occasionally, 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 implies that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was significant enough to say in the first place.
When communication fails, it’s easy to pin the blame on the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.
As an example, 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 believes John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.
As an alternative, what if John found ways to improve his listening skills, and provided 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 accepting 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? Let us know in a comment.