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Tips for Communicating with the Hard of Hearing

a man with hearing loss

Having regular conversations with someone that has hearing loss can be challenging if you don’t know the steps to take to make it easier. You want to make sure that you are making yourself understood and communicating clearly, without accidentally doing something to make the conversation more difficult. So, what is the best way to achieve clear conversation? Here are some top tips for communicating with the hard of hearing in the right way.

Clear communication

Before you start speaking, make sure you have the attention of the person you want to speak to, so they know you want to talk to them. Don’t touch someone with hearing loss to get their attention unless you know them well, as this could make someone jump and isn’t always very pleasant. Instead, approach from the front or side, so they can see you and don’t get a shock.

When speaking to someone who is hard of hearing, always face the person you are speaking to. Make eye contact, and try not to look away or cover your mouth. Many of those with hearing loss will rely on lip-reading to help them to understand you. Facing them and keeping your mouth uncovered can be a big help.

Speak clearly and steadily. If you know you tend to talk quickly, make an effort to slow down when you talk. Don’t shout or over-pronounce either; this distorts your lip patterns, making it much harder to lip read. Just talk as you normally would, and slow down if asked.

If the person you’re speaking to is having difficulty, repeat or rephrase what you said. Putting something in a different way can really help when talking to someone with hearing loss. If they’re really struggling, for example, when you’re out somewhere loud, don’t be afraid to write things down.

If you are talking to someone who is using a sign language interpreter, remember to direct your conversation to the person you’re speaking to, not the interpreter. It’s much more polite.

If you are often around someone with hearing loss, consider taking a course in sign language. Even some basic phrases are very valuable to have. Being able to say hello and exchange some small talk will be very rewarding for you and makes the person you’re speaking with feel like you have made an effort to communicate properly with them.

The environment

Think about the environment that you’re in. If you can, move away from or turn off any loud noises or background noise. Make sure your face is not in shadow, which could hinder lip-reading, and make sure the person who is hard of hearing doesn’t have a bright light in their eyes for the same reason. If there are a few people in the conversation, take turns to speak and try not to talk over each other. Picking out more than voice can be hard, and lip-reading from multiple people is difficult.

Stand around 12-18 inches away from the person with hearing loss. This is the optimum distance for those who use lip reading to understand, and for those using a hearing aid or sign language.

Keep trying

If you’re not in the ideal environment, making yourself understood might be difficult, but try to persevere. If you get annoyed after repeating yourself a few times and just give up, you might be making the person with hearing loss, feel that their conversation doesn’t matter. This can be very frustrating for them. Even if you have to write things down to talk, stick with it. It’s worth it to make someone feel valued.

No matter how hard you’re finding the conversation, don’t resort to shouting. Being louder doesn’t help, and in fact, can be very uncomfortable for someone using a hearing aid. Be patient and keep trying.

Remember that if you are finding the conversation, they probably are too. Try and maintain your patience and try not to get irritated. It isn’t the fault of the person with hearing loss if they are struggling to understand you, but if you become irritated or angry, they may feel as though you think it is.

Clear communication is the key to conversations with someone who has hearing loss Have patience and try your best to make sure you’re making yourself as easy to understand as you can by facing them and talking slowly and clearly. Move away from background noise to a well-lit area, and keep trying.  If you want to learn more about how you can help make someone with hearing loss part of the conversation, don’t hesitate to call EarTech Audiology at 801-399-9955.