Communication in the presence of hearing loss can be trying—for both parties. For those with hearing loss, partial hearing can be upsetting and exhausting, and for their conversation companions, the frequent repeating can be equally taxing.
However, the difficulty can be lessened as long as both parties take responsibility for effective communication. Since communication is a two-way process, the two parties should work together to beat the obstacles of hearing loss.
Here are some useful tips for effective communication.
Guidelines for those with hearing loss
If you suffer from hearing loss:
- Aim for complete disclosure; don’t simply state that you have trouble hearing. Explain the cause of your hearing loss and provide recommendations for the other person to best converse with you.
- Suggest to your communication partner things like:
- Keep short distances in between us
- Face-to-face communication is best
- Get my attention prior to speaking with me
- Talk slowly and clearly without screaming
- Search for quiet places for conversations. Minimize background noise by turning off music, locating a quiet table at a restaurant, or finding a quiet room at home.
- Keep a sense of humor. Our patients often have fond memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now chuckle about.
Keep in mind that people are ordinarily empathetic, but only when you take some time to explain your position. If your conversation partner is mindful 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 communication partner has hearing loss:
- Get the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when speaking.
- Ensure that the person can see your lips and articulate your words carefully. Preserve a consistent volume in your speech.
- Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for conversations. Turn off the TV or radio.
- In group settings, make sure only one person is speaking at any given time.
- Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not an understanding problem. Be ready to repeat yourself from time to time, and remember that this is not caused by a lack of intelligence on their part.
- Never say “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and implies that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say originally.
When communication fails, it’s easy to pin the blame on the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.
Consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having major communication problems. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as a justification to be inattentive.
As an alternative, what if John discovered methods to improve his listening skills, and provided advice 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 taking responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the problems. This is the only route to better communication.