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Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for each party. For people with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and tiring, and for their conversation partners, the constant repeating can be just as taxing.

However, the frustration can be alleviated providing both parties assume responsibility for productive conversation. Since communication is a two way process, the two parties should work collectively to conquer the obstacles of hearing loss.

Below are some helpful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Aim at full disclosure; don’t just state that you have trouble hearing. Detail 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:
    • Keep short distances in between us
    • Face to face interaction is best
    • Get my attention before talking with me
    • Speak slowly and clearly without yelling
  • Search for tranquil places for conversations. Minimize background noise by turning 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 absurd misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.

Remember that people are generally empathetic, but only when you make an effort to explain your circumstances. If your conversation partner is conscious of your challenges and preferences, they’re considerably less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your conversation partner has hearing loss:

  • Get the person’s attention prior to speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when talking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Reduce background noise by choosing quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the television or radio.
  • In group settings, ensure that only one person is speaking at a time.
  • Remember that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not the result of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and implies that the person is not worthy of 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.

As an example, consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having considerable communication issues. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes that John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.

As an alternative, what if John searched for ways to develop his listening skills, and provided tips 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 problems. This is the only path to better communication.

Do you have any communication guidelines you’d like to add? Tell us in a comment.