Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for each party. For those with hearing loss, partial hearing can be upsetting and exhausting, and for their conversation companions, the frequent repeating can be equally taxing.
But the frustration can be lessened providing both parties assume responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two way process, each parties should work together to overcome the difficulties of hearing loss.
Below are some helpful tips for effective communication.
Guidelines for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Aim for complete disclosure; don’t simply state that you have trouble hearing. Identify the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your communication partner things such as:
- Keep short distances in between us
- Face to face communication is best
- Get my attention before talking with me
- Speak slowly and clearly without screaming
- Search for tranquil places for conversations. Lessen background noise by turning off music, locating a quiet table 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 have a good laugh about.
Keep in mind that people are usually empathetic, but only if you take some time to clarify your circumstances. If your conversation partner is conscious of your difficulties and preferences, they’re less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.
Tips for those without hearing loss
If your conversation partner has hearing loss:
- Gain 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 diligently. Preserve a consistent volume in your speech.
- Reduce background noise by finding quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the television or radio.
- In groups, ensure that only one person is speaking at any given time.
- Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not a comprehension problem. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not due to a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never say “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worth having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.
When communication fails, it’s easy to pin the blame on the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.
Consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having significant communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.
As an alternative, what if John found tactics 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 taking responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the difficulties. This is the only way to better communication.
Do you have any communication guidelines you’d like to add? Let us know in a comment.