Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for both sides. For those with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and fatiguing, and for their conversation companions, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.
However, the difficulty can be mitigated as long as both parties assume responsibility for productive conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, both parties should work together to beat the obstacles of hearing loss.
Here are some helpful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Aim for full disclosure; don’t just state that you have trouble hearing. Clarify the cause of your hearing loss and supply recommendations for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your communication partner things such as:
- Maintain small distances between us
- Face to face interaction is best
- Get my attention prior to talking to me
- Talk slowly and clearly without shouting
- Find tranquil areas for conversations. Minimize background noise by turning off music, locating a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have fond memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.
Bear in mind that people are usually empathetic, but only when you make the effort to clarify your circumstances. If your communication partner is aware of your challenges and requirements, they’re far 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 before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when speaking.
- 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 television or radio.
- In groups, make sure only one person is speaking at a time.
- Remember that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not a comprehension problem. Be ready to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not the result of a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never use the phrase “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and suggests that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say in the first place.
When communication breaks down, it’s easy to blame 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 serious communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.
Instead, what if John discovered techniques to enhance 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 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 guidelines you’d like to include? Let us know in a comment.