Communicating effectively with someone experiencing hearing loss can be a challenge. But with 466 million people worldwide reporting some form of it, it’s important to know the best strategies for communication: from understanding the individual’s level of hearing loss, to creating the ideal setting for conversation. Here are our six helpful tips for communicating with individuals with hearing loss.
1. Find a Quiet Place
When conversing with someone with hearing loss, you might not be creating the best conditions for them to understand you. For example, if you're in a place that's loud or has distracting background noises, they may not be able to pick your voice out. Generally, background noise will interrupt certain consonants and overpower soft vowels. Additionally, sound tends to be additive. So, if multiple sounds are heard at the same time, it will make everything seem louder. Therefore, rather than shouting over the cacophony, simply find a quiet place to talk.
2. Understand the Level of Hearing Loss
When you're speaking to someone who has hearing loss, it’s important to understand the level of impairment they have. Some people simply have one bad ear. In that case, you'll need to remember which is the better side to speak to them. Sometimes small changes can make a big difference!
If you're close to an individual with hearing loss, you should take time to understand the types of challenges they face, and they will open up to you about what they need in order to communicate more effectively. All you have to do is to listen.
3. Say It Differently
Some people may get frustrated with repeating themselves when talking to someone with hearing loss. Saying the same thing, repeatedly, is no fun for anyone. If you said something twice and it's not registering, try saying it in a different way. Additionally, choose uncomplicated words when speaking to someone with hearing loss, so it’s easier for them to understand. Those with hearing loss want to hear you and they want to be heard too!
4. Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is a basic courtesy to extend to anyone you speak to. However, it's especially important when someone is having trouble hearing. Making eye contact will allow someone with hearing loss to read your expression for context clues they may have missed in the conversation.
Given that non-verbal cues constitute more than 55% of all communication, it's not necessarily what you say, but how you say it! Therefore, you need to show people what you're saying, as well as give them the precise content.
5. Get Their Attention
Most people will start talking to someone with hearing loss before getting their attention. This is a common mistake, and it reveals how much we take our hearing for granted. When conversing with someone with hearing loss, make sure they know you’re speaking. Without this, you could be talking without them even knowing.
6. Don't Cover Your Face
It's common to speak while eating or drinking, but doing so tends to block your face, which can be an issue when conversing with someone who has hearing loss. It's especially frustrating when combined with any of the issues listed, above. Covering your mouth while talking to someone who might be trying to read your lips is like trying to read a book without opening the cover. Take the time to break the habit of covering your face when talking to your friends and loved ones who have hearing loss.
Learning to Communicate with Those with Hearing Loss Takes Patience
When learning to communicate with individuals with hearing loss, you need patience, empathy, and the ability to focus. Once you've practiced these, communicating will be easy!
Interested in learning more about the world of hearing? Check out these “Ten Jobs that can Wreak Havoc on your Ears!”