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Communicating with people with hearing loss

December 20, 2018

Social gatherings can lead to challenging listening situations for someone with hearing loss and participating in conversations may become frustrating.


Each person with hearing loss has different communication needs and as a family member or friend of a person with hearing loss, you can help improve communication by following some general tips to help make your communication flow more smoothly and reduce the chance of communication breaking down.


Face the person
Always gain the person’s attention before starting to speak by saying their name or by touching their hand, arm or shoulder lightly. People with hearing loss are often more reliant on using visual cues to help them understand, so always face them while speaking. If you need to turn to the side or move away, stop speaking until you can face the person again.

 

Keep hands away from face
When talking, try to keep your hands away from your face. Someone with hearing loss will often pick up more information when watching your lips and facial expressions, so it’s important to not obscure the view of your face while talking. Eating or chewing gum, drinking, scratching your beard or resting your chin in your hands are all common culprits.

 

Reduce background noise and distractions
People with hearing loss often find it more difficult to hear when there is a lot of noise in the background. Distractions such as a TV or radio can also mean it’s harder for the person to concentrate on your conversation. Move away from distractions or to a quieter area before beginning your conversation.


When going to a restaurant or making dinner reservations, ask for a table away from the kitchen, counter or bar area, and large groups/tables where noise levels can be higher.

 

Speak naturally
It’s common to think that speaking very slowly or shouting will help you be understood more easily by someone with hearing loss. In fact, shouting or over-exaggerating words can make it much more difficult for the person with hearing loss to understand you, because your speech becomes more distorted, flat and unnatural. Speak at a normal rate, not too fast or too slow. Use pauses rather than slow speech to give the person time to process what you’re saying.

 

Rephrase rather than repeat
If the listener has difficulty understanding something you said, find a different way of saying it instead of repeating yourself. If they did not understand the words the first time, it's likely they will not understand them a second time. For example, if they didn’t understand you say “How do you like your coffee?” try rephrasing to “Black or white coffee, which do you prefer?”

 

Think about distance
Avoid shouting from another room when the person with hearing loss can’t see you. Try and communicate when standing a usual distance from the person with hearing loss. If you’re too close or far away it will be harder for the person to see you and may make it more difficult to understand you.

 

Buddy up
Be there for the person with hearing loss and help them feel included in conversation by repeating things they may not have understood or letting them know what the topic of discussion is. For example, if the conversation changes topic to “the game”, you could let the person with hearing loss know that the group is discussing last week’s cricket game which may help them follow the conversation and contribute more confidently.

 

If you have hearing loss
Let people close to you know that you are hard of hearing and pass on the above tips so they can help you be part of the conversations during social gatherings.


If you own hearing aids, we strongly encourage you to wear them to your upcoming social gatherings. Modern digital hearing aids are more than simple sound amplifiers. They are designed to help you focus on speech, reduce background noise and cut back on distortion. So, remember to wear your hearing aids and enjoy social gatherings.

 

If you suspect that either you, a friend or family member may be experiencing undiagnosed hearing loss, call HearClear Audiology on 1300 552 207 and make an appointment to see one of our audiologists for a FREE hearing assessment.*

 

*Free Hearing Assessment available for all adults over the age of 21.

 

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