Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for each party. For individuals with hearing loss, partial hearing can be upsetting and draining, and for their communication companions, the frequent repeating can be equally taxing.
But the difficulty can be mitigated as long as both parties take responsibility for profitable communication. Since communication is a two-way process, the two parties should collaborate to conquer the difficulties of hearing loss.
Here are some helpful tips for effective communication.
Guidelines for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Aim for full disclosure; don’t simply point out that you have difficulty hearing. Clarify the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
- Suggest to your conversation partner things such as:
- Maintain short distances in between us
- Face to face communication is best
- Get my attention before talking with me
- Talk slowly and clearly without yelling
- Find tranquil areas for conversations. Limit background noise by turning off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Retain a sense of humor. Our patients often have happy memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now have a good laugh about.
Keep in mind that people are usually empathetic, but only if you take some time to explain your circumstances. If your communication partner is conscious of your challenges and requirements, they’re significantly less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.
Tips for those without hearing loss
If your conversation partner has hearing loss:
- Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t yell from across the room and face the person when talking.
- Make sure the person can see your lips and enunciate your words carefully. Sustain a consistent volume in your speech.
- Reduce background noise by finding quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the television or radio.
- In group settings, ensure that only one person is speaking at a time.
- Remember that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be ready to repeat yourself occasionally, and remember that this is not caused by a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never use the phrase “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and indicates that the person is not worth having to repeat what was significant enough to say originally.
When communication fails, it’s convenient 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 major communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary thinks John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.
As an alternative, what if John discovered tactics to develop his listening skills, and offered tips for Mary to communicate better? Simultaneously, what if Mary did the same and attempted to find ways that she could communicate more clearly.
Now, both John and Mary are accepting responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the difficulties. This is the only path to better communication.
Do you have any communication tips you’d like to include? Tell us in a comment.