Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be frustrating—for both sides. For those with hearing loss, limited hearing can be stressful and draining, and for their communication companions, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.
But the challenge can be alleviated provided that both parties assume responsibility for productive communication. Since communication is a two way process, the two parties should work collectively to overcome the challenges of hearing loss.
The following are some helpful tips for effective communication.
Guidelines for those with hearing loss
If you have hearing loss:
- Aim at full disclosure; don’t simply state that you have difficulty hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and supply recommendations for the other person to best communicate with you.
- Suggest to your communication partner things such as:
- Maintain small distances between us
- Face to face interaction is best
- Get my attention prior to speaking with me
- Speak slowly and clearly without shouting
- Search for quiet locations for conversations. Reduce background noise by shutting off music, looking for a quiet table at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Retain a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of outrageous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.
Keep in mind that people are ordinarily empathetic, but only if you take the time to clarify your circumstances. If your communication partner is mindful of your challenges and preferences, they’re considerably less likely to become irritated when communication is disrupted.
Guidelines for those without hearing loss
If your conversation partner has hearing loss:
- Gain the person’s attention prior to speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when speaking.
- Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words diligently. Maintain a consistent volume in your speech.
- Reduce background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the television or radio.
- In group settings, make sure 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 prepared to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not the result of 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 significant enough to say in the first place.
When communication fails, it’s easy to pin the blame on 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 issues. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes that John is using his hearing loss as a reason to be inattentive.
As an alternative, what if John found methods to enhance his listening skills, and offered tips for Mary to communicate better? At the same time, what if Mary did the same and tried 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 problems. This is the only way to better communication.
Do you have any communication guidelines you’d like to include? Let us know.