COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
There are some simple strategies that can be used to improve communication ability when one has a hearing loss. These will help people with and without hearing aids.
If You Have A Hearing Loss:
Wear Your Hearing Aids If You Have Them
It’s not your fault you have a hearing loss but it’s your responsibility to do all you can to maximize your hearing, and that includes daily use of your hearing aids. This takes the burden not off only you, but your family members and friends as well.
Speak Face to Face Whenever Possible
Visual cues, speech reading, and gestures are so important for people who have difficulty hearing. Avoid speaking from another room, from around a corner, or from a significant distance. Use good lighting on the speaker’s face.
Let People Know How They Can Help
Let people know you have difficulty hearing. That’s much less embarrassing than misunderstanding people. Let them know how they can help you hear better. Some ideas:
- Ask people to face you when they speak.
- Ask them to get your attention before speaking.
- Ask them to speak more slowly.
- Instead of saying “What?”, let them know what you think you heard them say.
- Confirm important information, especially appointment dates and times as well as phone numbers. Write the information down.
If You Are Tired or Sick
Remember that you won’t be able to focus as well if you are tired or sick. If you are having difficulty following along with a conversation, it’s okay to ask for a break and to discuss at another time when you can pay better attention.
Reduce Background Noise Whenever You Can
Background noise is one of the most common complaints with hearing loss. Some tips:
- Move away from noises (fans, crowds) when listening.
- Use the “mute” button on the TV remote control when you want to listen to someone.
- At a family gathering, find a quiet spot in the house where you can avoid the noise and hear the conversation. Talk with people individually instead of in a group.
- Turn the radio down in the car.
In a Restaurant
Restaurants are often very difficult due to noise levels and poor lighting. Some tips:
- Ask for a booth when possible.
- Request to sit in a corner or near a wall.
- Sit away from the kitchen, bathroom, and TV/speakers to reduce the noise.
- Go at “off” times when a restaurant will be less crowded.
- If you wear hearing aids, sit with your back to the noise to help your hearing aids focus on the sounds in front of you.
- Remember that some restaurants are just difficult to hear in. Go for the food, not the conversation.
For Family Members and Friends:
Speak Face to Face Whenever Possible
Visual cues, speech reading, and gestures are so important for people with hearing loss. Avoid speaking from another room, from around a corner, or from a significant distance. Use good lighting on the speaker’s face.
Speak Slowly and Distinctly
People with hearing loss cannot process speech when spoken quickly. Slow down your speech slightly. Don’t over-enunciate words; this makes it harder to speech read. Use natural speech patterns and gestures.
Not only does shouting distort your voice making it harder to understand you, it also can distort your facial expressions and give the impression that you are angry with the person with hearing loss. You may need to speak slightly louder, but shouting will not help.
Get the Listener’s Attention Before Speaking
This helps the person with hearing loss focus on you. Call her name or touch his arm to let him know you are speaking. Wait until you have eye contact before talking.
Say the Topic Before Continuing
“Jack, I want to ask you about the grocery list.” This helps give cues for the conversation if the person with hearing loss misses words at times. Also let him or her know when the topic is changing. “Jan, now let’s talk about our plans for next week.” Again, you’ve gotten her attention and alerted her the topic of the conversation to make it easier to participate.
Use Shorter Sentences
Long and complicated sentences can be difficult to process with a hearing loss. Try using shorter sentences to get your point across.
Rephrase Rather Than Repeat
Sometimes there are certain sounds a person with hearing loss just can’t make out. Instead of repeating the same sentence over and over without success, try a different phrase. If the person can’t understand “What do you want to eat?” try instead, “What should I fix for dinner?” Some words are just clearer than others.
Don’t Tackle This Entire List
Read through the suggestions and discuss with family. Pick two or three that you agree will be the biggest help to you and that are also easy to do. Work on practicing those until they become a habit. Then pick two or three more and include those. Soon they will just become a normal part of your communication, and this will benefit many people around you. Children can be taught these tips too!
Living with hearing loss is difficult. Communicating with people who have hearing loss is difficult. Be patient, be kind, and take a break when you need to. Find the humor when you can; we hear some funny stories about what people thought they heard!