Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for both sides. For individuals with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and tiring, and for their communication partners, the constant repeating can be just as taxing.
However, the challenge can be lessened provided that both parties take responsibility for profitable conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, both parties should collaborate to conquer the obstacles of hearing loss.
Here are a few useful tips for effective communication.
Tips for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Strive for complete disclosure; don’t simply state that you have difficulty hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your conversation partner things like:
- Keep short distances in between us
- Face to face interaction is best
- Get my attention before talking to me
- Speak slowly and clearly without screaming
- Find tranquil places for conversations. Limit background noise by turning off music, looking for a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
- Retain a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now chuckle about.
Bear in mind that people are typically empathetic, but only when you make the effort to clarify your position. If your communication partner is conscious of your difficulties and preferences, they’re much less likely to become angry when communication is disrupted.
Guidelines for those without hearing loss
If your communication partner has hearing loss:
- Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t yell from across the room and face the person when speaking.
- Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words diligently. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
- Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the television or radio.
- In groups, make sure 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 because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never use the phrase “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and implies that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say originally.
When communication fails, it’s convenient to blame 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 serious communication issues. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.
As an alternative, what if John found ways to develop his listening skills, and provided tips for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and tried 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 difficulties. This is the only route to better communication.
Do you have any communication recommendations you’d like to add? Let us know in a comment.