Communication Tips for People with Hearing Loss… and Family and Friends

By Lisa Tseng, MD
Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the one with the hearing impairment; it also affects their friends, family members and communication partners. Here are some ideas that will make communication easier. Sharing these ideas with people will help make it easier for everyone.
1.  Don’t try to hide your hearing loss from others.
If you let the person you are talking with know that you have a hearing loss, he/she will be more inclined to look directly at you and speak clearly and slowly. If you miss a word and seem to get confused in the conversation, your partner will know it’s due to your hearing loss and not due to you not paying attention.
2.  Wear your hearing aids.
Wearing your hearing aids should make things easier for you.
3.  Use your eyes as much as possible.
Hearing will be easier when you can also see the person you are speaking with. Get closer to your speaking partner, and make sure you can see their face. Do not try to have conversations from across the room, or from another room. Don’t pretend to understand something that you have not heard well enough. Don’t expect to hear everything, especially if it’s really noisy in the room.
4.  Be prepared for noise!
If you’re going to a noisy restaurant, try to go at less busy times to avoid large, noisy crowds. Try going to restaurants with carpet and drapery. This will help absorb the sound, and there will not be as much echoing, which makes hearing much harder for everyone. It is always best to have noise behind you and the person you want to hear in front of you, as your hearing aids are designed to work best in that situation. If you’re going to a lecture or religious service, get there early and sit up front. You will always hear better when you are closer to the sound. Many public auditoriums or places such as a movie theater will have devices for people with hearing loss. They often work very well! Ask for them and try them out!
5.  Keeping track of the conversation
Repeat back what you heard to make sure you’re on track with the conversation. This will allow you to not get too lost during a conversation. It may also save you from embarrassment later on.
Try to be specific about what you missed during a conversation. Instead of saying, “huh” or “what”, repeat back what you did hear. One example, “You’re going out at what time?” This strategy helps the speaker not have to repeat everything he/she said.
Try asking for what you need. If the person is speaking too fast, tell them. Be specific as to what will help you more.
6.  Be patient with yourself. 
Be patient with yourself and your communication partners. You will not always understand everything, but by using these ideas you should get the most important information.
Hearing Loss Communication Strategies for Family and Friends
Hearing loss can make communication frustrating for everyone. It is most frustrating for the person with the hearing loss. There are some ways of speaking that have been proven to make it easier for people to understand better when they have hearing loss. Here are some ideas on how to make it easier for all.
1.  Please remember that while hearing aids help, they cannot and do not make a person’s hearing “normal”. They should make it easier to communicate, but please be sure your expectations are reasonable.
2.  When speaking to a person with hearing loss, the first tip is to just slow down. Pause every now and then. 
3.  If you’re asked to repeat something, say it a bit slower. If this does not work, try saying it using different words.
4.  Speaking a bit louder might help, but shouting makes it even more difficult. When we yell or shout, our speech gets distorted, but it does not make the important parts of speech any easier to hear.
5.  Do not cover your mouth when speaking. Look directly at your partner and try not to turn your back.
6.  When going out to a restaurant, think about how noisy it is, and recommend some quieter restaurants or go during less busy hours. Hearing in noise can be awfully tiring, and speaking up over the noise will strain your voice. Make it easier for everybody.