Tips for Speaking with Someone with Hearing Loss
I’m deaf in one ear and have a 30% loss (high frequencies) in the other. I’ve had a hearing aid for 50 years, since I was 18.
I’ve found the following Web pages to be particularly good for letting others know how to help a hard-of-hearing person hear them. I can’t post the URLs right now as a new member, so I’ve included what these pages say.
“Communicating with People with Hearing Loss” (from ucsfhealth) https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/communicating_with_people_with_hearing_loss/
Successful communication requires the efforts of all people involved in a conversation. Even when the person with hearing loss utilizes hearing aids and active listening strategies, it is crucial that others involved in the communication process consistently use good communication strategies, including the following:
1. Face the hearing impaired person directly, on the same level and in good light whenever possible. Position yourself so that the light is shining on the speaker’s face, not in the eyes of the listener.
2. Do not talk from another room. Not being able to see each other when talking is a common reason people have difficulty understanding what is said.
3. Speak clearly, slowly, distinctly, but naturally, without shouting or exaggerating mouth movements. Shouting distorts the sound of speech and may make speech reading more difficult.
4. Say the person’s name before beginning a conversation. This gives the listener a chance to focus attention and reduces the chance of missing words at the beginning of the conversation.
5. Avoid talking too rapidly or using sentences that are too complex. Slow down a little, pause between sentences or phrases, and wait to make sure you have been understood before going on.
6. Keep your hands away from your face while talking. If you are eating, chewing, smoking, etc. while talking, your speech will be more difficult to understand. Beards and moustaches can also interfere with the ability of the hearing impaired to speech read.
7. If the hearing impaired listener hears better in one ear than the other, try to make a point of remembering which ear is better so that you will know where to position yourself.
8. Be aware of possible distortion of sounds for the hearing impaired person.They may hear your voice, but still may have difficulty understanding some words.
9. Most hearing impaired people have greater difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise. Try to minimize extraneous noise when talking.
10. Some people with hearing loss are very sensitive to loud sounds. This reduced tolerance for loud sounds is not uncommon. Avoid situations where there will be loud sounds when possible.
11. If the hearing impaired person has difficulty understanding a particular phrase or word, try to find a different way of saying the same thing, rather than repeating the original words over and over.
12. Acquaint the listener with the general topic of the conversation. Avoid sudden changes of topic. If the subject is changed, tell the hearing impaired person what you are talking about now. In a group setting, repeat questions or key facts before continuing with the discussion.
13. If you are giving specific information — such as time, place or phone numbers — to someone who is hearing impaired, have them repeat the specifics back to you. Many numbers and words sound alike.
14. Whenever possible, provide pertinent information in writing, such as directions, schedules, work assignments, etc.
15. Recognize that everyone, especially the hard-of-hearing, has a harder time hearing and understanding when ill or tired.
16. Pay attention to the listener. A puzzled look may indicate misunderstanding. Tactfully ask the hearing impaired person if they understood you, or ask leading questions so you know your message got across.
17. Take turns speaking and avoid interrupting other speakers.
18. Enroll in aural rehabilitation classes with your hearing impaired spouse or friend.
“10 Tips For Communicating With People With Hearing Loss” (from Beltone)
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.
4. Keep your hands away from your face Most listeners depend on lip reading and facial expressions to understand conversations more completely. 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.
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. 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 on a daily basis. Be patient. Communicating with hearing loss is a cooperative effort and requires understanding from both sides.
I’d add a few other pieces of advice:
1. Don’t talk while you are walking away.
2. When getting into or out of a car with someone, don’t talk while you are on opposite sides. Wait until you’re both in the car, or until you’re close to each other outside the car. And don’t talk while the garage door is going up or down.
3. Never say “Never mind.” It makes the person you say it to feel unimportant to you!
When I’m on the phone with someone who’s speaking too quickly, or who has a foreign accent (which I generally find hard to understand), I always start by saying that I’m hard of hearing, and that I’d appreciate it if they could speak a bit slower (and louder, if I think that would help). Sales people and help line people often forget that sometime during the conversation. If so, I try to gently remind them.
I hope this is helpful!