Hearing aids alone may not let a person with hearing loss to communicate successfully in all listening situations. As a family member or friend of a person with hearing loss, you can help improve communication by following a few simple suggestions. Remember, communication involves at least two individuals: a talker who sends the message and a listener who receives the message.
1) Gain attention
Gain the listener’s attention before you begin talking, for example, by saying his or her name. If the person with hearing loss hears better from one ear, move to that side of the person. If necessary, touch the listener’s hand, arm, or shoulder lightly. This simple gesture will prepare the listener to listen and allow him or her to hear the first part of the conversation.
2) Maintain eye contact
Face the person with hearing loss. Make eye contact. Your facial expressions and body language add vital information to the communication. For example, you can “see” a person’s anger, frustration, and excitement by watching the expression on his or her face.
3) Keep hands away from face
When talking, try to keep your hands away from your face. If you are a smoker, hold the cigarette in your hands while talking. You will produce clearer speech and allow the listener to make use of those visual cues.
4) Avoid covering or changing the shape of your lips and mouth
Most listeners make use of lip-reading. Lip-reading helps improve recognition of some sounds and speech that are more difficult and especially in difficult listening situations. To help with lip-reading, do not overdo or create odd lip shapes when applying lipstick, do not talk with food in your mouth and do not chew gum. Keep in mind that heavy beards and moustaches can also hide your mouth.
5) Speak naturally
Speak distinctly, but without exaggeration. You do not need to shout. Shouting actually distorts the words. Try not to mumble, as this is very hard to understand, even for people with normal hearing. Speak at a normal rate, not too fast or too slow. Use pauses rather than slow speech to give the person time to process speech.
6) Rephrase rather than repeat
If the listener has difficulty understanding something you said, find a different way of saying it. If he or she did not understand the words the first time, it’s likely he or she will not understand them a second time. So, try to rephrase it.
7) Converse away from background noise
Try to reduce background noises when conversing. Turn off the radio or television. Move to a quiet space away from the noise source. When going to a restaurant or making dinner reservations, ask for a table away from the kitchen, server stations, or large parties.
8) Move to an area with good lighting
When in a restaurant or other social gathering, sit where there is good lighting so that your face can be more easily seen. Also, avoid strong lighting coming from behind you, such as through a window.
Writing, texting, using visual media (such as pictures, diagrams and charts) and finger spelling are other methods of communication. If the person you are speaking with is deaf and uses sign language, communicating by sign language would be the most ideal.
- Steps to Better Hearing: There is More to Hearing Loss than Just a Hearing Aid. hearingloss.org
- Medwetsky L. Hearing loss. In: Duthie: Practice of Geriatrics, 4th ed. Saunders; An Imprint of Elsevier; 2007 (23):294-295.