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McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

Two women having a conversation outside

Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for each party. For people with hearing loss, limited hearing can be stressful and draining, and for their conversation companions, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.

However, the difficulty can be alleviated as long as both parties assume responsibility for profitable communication. Since communication is a two way process, the two parties should work together to overcome the challenges of hearing loss.

Here are a few useful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Aim at complete disclosure; don’t simply express that you have trouble hearing. Detail the cause of your hearing loss and supply recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your communication partner things such as:
    • Keep small distances between us
    • Face to face communication is best
    • Get my attention before speaking with me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without yelling
  • Find tranquil locations for conversations. Lessen background noise by turning off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Our patients frequently have happy memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.

Bear in mind that people are usually empathetic, but only if you take some time to explain your situation. If your conversation partner is cognizant of your challenges and requirements, they’re much less likely to become agitated when communication is disrupted.

Tips for those without hearing loss

If your conversation 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 articulate your words carefully. Sustain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Reduce background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • In groups, make sure only one person is speaking at a time.
  • Remember 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 the result of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never use the phrase “never mind.” This phrase is dismissive and suggests that the person is not worthy of having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.

When communication breaks down, it’s easy to blame 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 problems. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John searched for ways to improve his listening skills, and offered tips for Mary to communicate better? At the same time, what if Mary did the same and tried 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 difficulties. This is the only way to better communication.

Do you have any communication guidelines you’d like to include? Let us know in a comment.