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Two women having a conversation outside

Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be difficult—for each party. For people with hearing loss, partial hearing can be upsetting and tiring, and for their conversation companions, the constant repeating can be equally taxing.

However, the challenge can be alleviated providing both parties assume responsibility for effective conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, each parties should work together to overcome the difficulties of hearing loss.

The following are some useful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Strive for full disclosure; don’t just point out that you have difficulty hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and supply recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
  • Suggest to your conversation partner things like:
    • Keep short distances between us
    • Face-to-face communication is best
    • Get my attention before speaking to me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without screaming
  • Find tranquil places for conversations. Limit background noise by turning off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of absurd misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.

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

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your conversation partner has hearing loss:

  • Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when speaking.
  • Make sure the person can see your lips and enunciate your words diligently. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Reduce background noise by finding quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the TV or radio.
  • In groups, make sure only one person is speaking at a time.
  • Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be ready to repeat yourself on occasion, and remember that this is not due to a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never say “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important 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 average hearing, and they are having serious communication problems. John thinks Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes that John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John searched for methods to enhance his listening skills, and provided advice 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 road to better communication.

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

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