tips for communicating with hearing loss

Tips for Communicating with Hearing Loss

Most of what I am about to tell you should come instinctively, but for some reason when you have a hearing loss it might make you a little more self-conscious about it. So, I thought I would just reiterate to let you know it’s ok to self-advocate to improve your hearing comprehension.

First step was to acknowledge you have a hear loss and get the help you need. Congratulations!

Second you need to understand your listening strengths, needs, and interests. If you are not sure ask your hearing care provider to conduct a needs assessment. Needs might be hearing devices like smoke alarms, fire alarms, watching TV, talking on the phone and many other listening situations. Strengths might me talking face to face, one on one with no background noise.

Once you have an understanding of your listening needs beyond what your hearing aid can help you with you can seek out other options. There are all sorts of assistive listing device that pair with most hearing aids for several different situations. You might qualify for a free closed caption phone as well. There is so many different devices that it’s best you talk with your hearing care provider and let them know where your problem areas are.

Let people know you have a hearing loss so they can look at you directly and speak clearly when talking with you. If people know you have a hearing loss they are more likely to speak accordingly and you would have fewer misunderstandings.

Let people know what you need from them so they can communicate better without all the frustration on both parts. Try these tips for communicating with hearing loss:

  • Try not to say “Huh?” or “What did you say?”. If you understand part of what was said just ask for the part you did not hear or understand. For example, if someone said, “would you like to go to Olive Garden for dinner” and all you heard was something about going to dinner. You could then say something like I got that you want to go to dinner but where is it you wanted to go or I did not hear the name of the restaurant, something like that. Just so they know the part you missed. Try to figure out what you missed and politely ask about the part you missed.
  • If the person turns away from you politely ask them to look at you and let them know you lip read. This is usually better then saying “Huh?”.
  • There are always those few out there that have a habit of talking with their hand in front of their mouth. You might have to keep reminding them that you really need to see their lips. Say something like “Could you please put your hand down? I lip-read. You might have to keep making hand gestures for them to lower their hands or ask again. Habits are hard to break and they usually are not even aware that they talk with their hand in front of their mouth.
  • If the person is a fast speaker? Ask them to, “Please slow down I am unable to keep up with what you are saying.” If they start picking up pace use a hand gesture or ask them to slow down again. Fast talking is a habit and they might need to be reminded to slow down.
  • If you are not sure you understood correctly repeat it back and ask if that is what was said. Taking a little time for clarification can save a lot of misunderstanding.
  • Be positive when asking for help understanding. Don’t lean in and say WHAT!? Really loud that is such a negative vibe that it makes the speaker apprehensive. Instead say something like “You’re going to have to speak louder if you want me to understand you.” Be polite and positive in your asking.
  • Politely and positively let people know what you need to make a conversation flow better. At a group meeting you might suggest only one person talk at a time or they speak up and face the group.

Always plan ahead for difficult listening situation and be prepared. Planning is key and again knowing you hearing weakness is a huge part of being able to plan ahead.

Example: Dining out with friends?

  • Suggest going at a time when the restaurant is not likely to be too busy.
  • Suggest a place that you know is relatively quiet.
  • Arrive early and pick a seat furthest from the noisy kitchen and position yourself to best understand conversation. If they have high back padded booth, sit in the booth.
  • Bring any hearing assistive devices that you may need

See what is being said. Look at the speaker’s face, their lips and body language may help you understand what is being said.

It is ok to ask for help. Sometimes loud speakers are hard to hear even for people with normal hearing find themselves wondering what was said. It’s ok to go to the head of the line and ask them to repeat the announcement and then go back to your place in line. Or, ask the person in front of you what was said. Most people will be more than happy to repeat it or you might find no one understood what was said.

Stay positive and don’t blame yourself for not hearing others. Know your hearing weaknesses and work on doing what you can to overcome them. There is help, your hearing care professional can help you with the tools you need to overcome the listing weaknesses. Also, following these few tips for communicating with hearing loss should help as well.