Hearing loss can make engaging in conversation challenging. Impaired hearing reduces one’s ability to absorb and process speech and sound which strains communication. People often struggle hearing distinct words (or sentences), speech can seem muffled, and conversations can be hard to follow. This can result in frequently needing others to repeat themselves, speak loudly and/or slowly, moving to a quieter area etc. Conversations can then feel like more work than pleasure and this can frustrate not only the person with impaired hearing, but others involved in the conversation.
This can contribute to stress, anxiety, and the desire to avoid social interaction. But there are so many effective ways to engage in conversation that can alleviate the pressure and extra energy exerted to hear. By making a few adjustments and using helpful strategies, communication can become easier. There are general tips that you can use to help communication flow more smoothly!
- Gain attention: prior to even starting the conversation, you want to make sure that the person you want to speak to is aware. Simply saying their name or placing a hand on their shoulder are easy ways to grab the person’s attention.
- Face the person: position yourself directly in front of the person you are having a conversation with. Maintaining eye contact allows people to clearly see and read body language which can really enhance communication. This also means that being in the same room is helpful. Shouting from another room or trying to get one’s attention can be challenging.
- Limit background noise: it can be difficult to hear clearly in noisy environments. Background noise can be distracting and make it more difficult to focus on listening.
- Speak naturally: by annunciating words and speaking clearly. You want to avoid speaking too fast, mumbling, and speaking too softly. Also, avoid shouting or speaking unbearably slow!
- Avoid repetition: if a hearing-impaired person has difficulty understanding a word or phrase, rather than repeating the exact same words or sentence, try rephrasing by using different words. Some speech and sounds can be harder to hear than others so using different ways to communicate your idea can be useful.
- Pay Attention: it’s important to pay attention to the person you are speaking to. If it appears that they are having a difficult time hearing what you are saying, they are struggling to respond, look confused or lost during the conversation etc., you should ask if there’s anything you can clarify or repeat.
- Limit Distractions: such as chewing, texting, smoking etc. can interfere with hearing what you are saying. It is also important to be present and looking for cues that could help with communication. Additionally, being able to read mouths is an important way some people hear so you don’t want to block that part of your face.
- Communicate needs: if your hearing is impaired, it is important to express what your needs are. If there are adjustments the other person can make to better help you hear, let them know! For example, if your hearing is better in one ear over the other, notifying the person you are talking to can allow them to shift their position. If you are having a conversation with someone whose hearing is impaired, it is helpful to ask what they need!
- Write details: if you are trying to communicate highly detailed information (addresses, phone numbers, email addresses etc.), writing this information down or texting it are easy ways to make sure this information was accurately received.
- Be patient: all conversations require patience, focus, and energy. Impaired hearing can significantly impact communication so exercising greater patience is important. It may also take some time and practice for these tips to become secondhand. So be sure to give yourself and others the time and grace to be comfortable with these adjustments.
Communication is an exchange that involves the effort of all people involved. Being aware of a person’s hearing needs is critical to engaging effectively. People with impaired hearing can have a range of hearing needs that are specific to the degree and type of hearing loss they are experiencing; so asking is always a great first step! By practicing active listening, and making minor adjustments, communication can easily flow!