As frustrating as it can be for a hard of hearing person to communicate with their loved ones and friends, it can be equally frustrating for others to communicate with them. Communication is a two-way street and both sides must work together to facilitate a healthy conversation. Thankfully, there are things that can be done on both sides to aid in the dialog. The most important aspect is to be aware of what the person with hearing loss experiences.

Important facts on hearing loss

  • ‍Most people with hearing loss have more difficulty with clarity of speech as opposed to volume of sound. They may say they don’t hear you but what they often mean is that they cannot understand which words you’re using.
  • Background noise makes hearing more difficult. If someone is hard of hearing already then it is even more challenging in noise.
  • Hearing loss can appear as confusion. If a senior appears to be confused often then a proper hearing test should be performed to ensure it isn’t because they cannot understand what is said.
  • It is embarrassing to not understand what we’re told.  Some people may pretend that they have heard the dialog.

Good communication tips

  • ‍Background noise can make it more difficult to understand. Wherever possible you should reduce any noise or move somewhere quieter.
  • If you get the other person’s attention first, they are less likely to miss the first few words of what you say.
  • When you speak from a distance it is more challenging to understand. Be sure to move to the same room so you’re not shouting down the hall.
  • The hard of hearing person may be misunderstanding what you are saying without realizing it. If they give you strange answers check to make sure you are both having the same conversation.
  • Visual cues can help considerably. Be sure your face is visible as well as your mouth. Avoid chewing gum and turn the lights on.
  • Don’t yell. Yelling will distort your voice and leave it unnatural. Be sure to speak at a clear, natural volume.
  • Rephrasing words rather than repeating can help. There may be a particular word the person isn’t quite catching and using different words may help them understand.
  • Don’t speak to slowly, too quickly or exaggerated. Try to keep a natural steady pace.
  • Above all, please remain patient. Getting upset at someone else for not hearing you does nothing to resolve the challenges that you are both experiencing.