When you have a hearing loss communication can be difficult, even with appropriately fit amplification devices. Amplification alone often is not enough to help individuals hear clearly and understand speech in every environment. Things like distance from the speaker, background noise, reverberation, and communication partner characteristics (accent, dialect, etc.) can impede effective communication. It’s important for individuals with hearing loss to be proactive and let other people know what they need in order to communicate effectively.
Below are some helpful strategies to allow for more effective communication with less frustration.
Communication strategies for individuals with hearing loss:
1. Always face the individual speaking to you. Often times communication partners try to talk to the individual with hearing loss from another room or with their back turned. Communication in this manner is difficult even for individuals with normal hearing. We use visual cues from the person’s face to help understand what is being said, so being able to clearly see your communication partner will go a long way toward helping communication and understanding.
2. Decrease as much background noise as possible. If there is a television on or music/radio playing turn these off when trying to listen and communicate. Even the best amplification devices cannot completely eliminate all sources of noise, so be proactive about noise sources you have control over.
3. Ask for clarification. And when you do so, make sure the other person understands you are hard of hearing, but you do not need them to yell at you. Simply ask them to re-state what they said in a different way. It’s also helpful to repeat what you heard them say so they know where the breakdown occurred.
4. Change your position. If you are in a noisy area, try moving to a different location. If this is not possible, try positioning yourself so your back is toward the loudest noise source. This will allow your amplification devices to make the most effective use of their noise management features.
Communication strategies for friends and family members of individuals with hearing loss:
1. Try to keep your mouth visible while you talk. Don’t cover your mouth with your hands and don’t turn your head away from your communication partner. If the listener is able to see your face and lips they can use visual cues more effectively to bridge the gap when they aren’t able to hear you clearly.
2. Try not to communicate in areas with competing noise. Reduce background noise as much as possible when talking with an individual with hearing loss. This reduces the effort it takes for them to hear and understand.
3. If the individual with hearing loss does not understand you, rephrase what you said rather than just repeating. This will provide a better chance for the individual to understand what you said if they are struggling with a few specific words.
4. Be patient! Try not to get frustrated if you must repeat or rephrase what you said. Remember, the other individual is doing the best they can with the hearing they have. Even with hearing aids, they may not understand what is said 100% of the time. It’s just as frustrating for them to not understand as it is for you to be misunderstood.