10 Tips for Communicating With People With Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can make communication difficult. Follow these simple tips to improve conversations with your hearing-impaired friends, family and co-workers.

It's important to remember that every person with hearing loss is unique and may have different communication needs. These tips are meant to be general guidelines, and it may take some trial and error to figure out the best way to communicate with a specific individual. The most important thing is to be patient, understanding, and willing to make the effort to communicate effectively.
Follow these simple tips to improve communication with your hearing-impaired friends, family and co-workers:

1. Get their attention

Getting the listener’s attention before you start speaking will give them a moment to shift their attention and focus on you. Try saying the person’s name, touching their arm or using a gesture to get their attention.

2. Eye contact

Ensure that you are face to face with your hearing-impaired listener. Maintaining eye contact will help them focus on what you’re saying. Lip reading and facial expressions play a large part in communicating for both sides of the conversation.

3. Speak naturally and clearly – don’t shout

Speak clearly, at a normal or slightly slower speed and enunciate your words. Speaking in a slightly louder voice may also help your listener understand but be careful not to shout. Shouting distorts the sound of your words and can make lip reading more difficult. Avoid mumbling or speaking too quickly.

4. Keep your hands away from your face

Most listeners depend on lip reading and facial expressions to understand conversations more completely. Use gestures and other nonverbal cues to supplement your verbal communication, but be sure not to cover your face and avoid exaggerated facial expressions that may distort your mouth and impede the listener’s ability to lip read. Speak in a well-lit room to ensure that the person can see your face clearly when you speak.

5. Rephrase

If you find that you’re being asked to repeat yourself, try rephrasing and using different words to make your message easier to understand. Repeat information as necessary. Ask leading or clarifying questions throughout the conversation to ensure your message is clear.

6. Avoid excessive background noise

Background noise makes listening conditions difficult for those with hearing loss, try to avoid situations where there will be loud noises whenever possible. Turn off the television/radio, move away from noisy areas and if you’re in a social environment, try to find a quiet place to sit or a seat in a restaurant that is away from the kitchen or large gatherings.

7. Talk into their “good ear”

Many people who suffer from hearing loss tend to have one ear that is stronger than the other. Look for cues as to which ear that is, ask them if appropriate, and situate yourself on that side of your listener.

8. Watch your listener

Pay attention to your listener’s facial expressions and body language for signs of confusion or that they don’t understand. If you notice that they seem puzzled, tactfully ask if they understand or if they need clarification.

9. Speak to the person, not the interpreter

If your listener communicates via an interpreter, be sure to keep your eyes on and speak directly to your listener and not the interpreter. It may seem odd at first, but the interpreter is a tool to help the listener communicate.

10. Be understanding

You may feel understandably frustrated when interacting with the hearing impaired, but keep in mind how it must be for them every day. Be patient. Communicating with hearing loss is a cooperative effort and requires understanding from both sides. Remember that everyone's hearing loss is different, so be open to trying different methods of communication until you find what works best. Educate yourself about hearing loss and different communication strategies.

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