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How To Communicate Through Hearing Loss

Approximately one-third of Americans ages 65 and older have hearing loss. Do you know how to properly communicate with someone who has a hearing impairment? Dr. Carolyn Coss, Audiologist and Speech Language Pathologist at Keystone Audiology and Speech, shares some important tips to help avoid miscommunication, alleviate frustration and make sure everyone is included in daily activities and conversations.

If you notice a friend or family member is having difficulty hearing, what should you do?

If you notice a loved one is not hearing well, encourage them to have a formal hearing evaluation by an audiologist before they begin to avoid social situations and before people around them become frustrated by miscommunications.

What should someone keep in mind if a loved one develops a hearing impairment?

Hearing loss can lead to miscommunication, frustration, and social isolation. Often, people with hearing loss feel left out of conversations or may feel that others are talking about them when they cannot understand. Let them know that you really do want to include them in your conversations. Even with hearing aids, people with significant hearing loss may not understand what has been said or have to work very hard to participate in conversations.

What are some tips for communicating with someone who has a hearing impairment?

First, understand that hearing loss can be isolating. That means that communication partners must make some accommodations so that the friend or family member can feel included. Make sure you are facing the person when you talk, that your hands are not in front of your mouth, that you are within 6-8 feet and that any background noises are reduced or eliminated. That may mean turning off music, muting the TV, or moving into a quieter room. For men with a mustache, it may mean trimming a little closer so that the mouth is easier to see. Speak clearly at a “slow normal” rate. When asked to repeat, rephrase if needed. Write down important information, such as appointment times or schedules, to avoid confusion. Remote communication can be improved by using texting, emailing, a captioned telephone or relay service.

How can loved ones help those with hearing impairments live as normally as possible?

People with hearing loss enjoy the same kinds of activities that everyone else does. Being inclusive usually just means paying attention to the listening environment and making sure that the person with hearing loss understands what is going on and has access to information. In a noisy restaurant, you may ask for a quieter table. At a theater, ask for an assistive device. Request a transcript of an audio tour or lecture. Make use of the closed captioning on your television or use a direct-to-hearing aids transmitter.

What are some tips for including someone with a hearing impairment in gatherings?

Smaller gatherings are quieter and make listening easier. However, when in larger groups, keep a few of the following ideas in mind. Make sure the person with hearing loss is able to see all the faces of the group and that lighting is not too dim. Eliminate background music or other background noises. Avoid sudden changes in topic; knowing the topic allows the person with a hearing impairment to better predict what is being discussed. Pay attention to signals of misunderstanding such as a confused expression and clarify before moving on. Avoid interrupting and talking over others.

By making a few adjustments and being intentional about including everyone, those with hearing loss can participate more fully in life and enjoy the same activities as everyone around them.



This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.