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Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be frustrating—for both parties. For individuals with hearing loss, partial hearing can be stressful and fatiguing, and for their communication companions, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.

But the difficulty can be lessened as long as both parties assume responsibility for productive conversation. Since communication is a two way process, each parties should work together to overcome the obstacles of hearing loss.

Here are a few useful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you suffer from hearing loss:

  • Aim for full disclosure; don’t simply point out that you have trouble hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things like:
    • Maintain short distances in between us
    • Face to face interaction is best
    • Get my attention prior to talking to me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without screaming
  • Find tranquil areas for conversations. Lessen background noise by shutting off music, choosing a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.

Keep in mind that people are generally empathetic, but only if you take some time to explain your position. If your communication partner is advised of your difficulties and preferences, they’re much less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your communication 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 articulate your words diligently. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • In group settings, 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 an understanding problem. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself on occasion, and remember that this is not caused by a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and implies that the person is not worth having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.

When communication fails, it’s convenient 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 average 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 reason to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John searched for ways to enhance his listening skills, and offered tips for Mary to communicate better? At the same time, 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 problems. 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.

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