How to Effectively Communicate with People Who Have Difficulty Hearing

December 14, 2022 0

Here are some simple steps you can take when speaking with someone with hearing loss to help facilitate effective communication and help them feel included.

When calling someone on the phone, is it customary to start talking before they pick up the phone and say “hello?” Of course not, we want to make sure that there is a connection and that the person answering the phone is listening.  The same exchange of seeking attention and listening is true of face-to-face communication. Couples and friends who are relaxed and used to each other sometimes begin a narrative when the partner isn’t listening and doesn’t have the context of the comment or question. It is useful to establish a pattern that alerts the partner and establishes the connection.

Instead of declaring “It’s Taco Tuesday, let’s go to El Cholo tonight.” with no lead in, start with an alerting phrase:

You: “I have an idea!”

Partner: “What’s that?”

You: “It’s Taco Tuesday, let’s go to El Cholo tonight.”

The unalerted declaration may often yield a “Huh?” response and may create frustration.  With the alerting lead-in, a connection is made, and confirmed with a solid response.

Use moderated rate and carefully articulated pattern of speech

When speaking naturally to someone who is without hearing problems, it’s easy to slip into shared slang and shorthand without the worry that the other party won’t understand. Modifying the way you speak when someone has known hearing loss can help the communication process. Avoid shorthand phrases which can often get lost, and focus more on speaking clearly in consideration of the listener by choosing clear words with a focus on your phrasing structure.

Be sure to face the person you are speaking with

People without hearing loss get accustomed to having conversations with someone while looking elsewhere; perhaps chatting together while watching the television or catching a loved one up on the day while performing household tasks. When talking with a person with hearing loss, it’s important to look directly at them as often as possible. This helps the listener to have the sound directly facing them, while also allowing the lips to be read if necessary. Some people who have difficulty hearing use speechreading, as a tool to help them clarify a speaker’s words. Speechreading, also known as lip reading, is when the listener takes the visual clues of the speaker’s lip and facial movements, gestures, posture and body language to better help them understand what is being said.

Consider solutions beyond simply repeating

Our instinctive response to someone who says they didn’t understand us is to repeat the same phrase over again in a louder voice. It’s an understandable reaction but often unhelpful for people with hearing loss. If the person you’re speaking to has trouble understanding you, resist the temptation to simply repeat yourself, and especially at a louder volume. Look for other ways to get your point across such as rephrasing the information and adding visual cues.

Try to keep background noise to a minimum

Ask any person who lives with hearing loss, and they’ll likely tell you that background noise is one of the most difficult conditions for them to navigate. You may not always be able to control the environment if you are in a public place such as a restaurant, but if you are having someone with hearing loss over to your home, consider what steps you can take to make the space more amenable to them.

How to Help

These tips can help you better communicate with people with hearing loss, but there are innovative treatments and technology that can vastly improve their lives and help them engage with the world around them. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations and learn more about how we can help.

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