Tips for Communicating with Hearing Loss

Tips for Communicating with Hearing Loss

Bonnie L. Baehr, Au.D.

If you are experiencing changes in your hearing, there are many effective ways to be able to maintain and nurture communication. Whether your hearing loss is mild or you use hearing aids there are techniques available to you that will benefit your ability to engage and participate in conversations effectively.

When people first begin to experience hearing loss, a “passive” approach is taken on in a majority of cases. This approach is one that is understandable but can be a hindrance. It is characterized by “pretending” to hear and understand and or withdrawal from a conversation altogether for fear of being misunderstood.  A passive technique will invariably result in feelings of isolation and possibly depression. It also leaves your friends and loved ones out of the loop. Frustrations and miscommunications are increased using a passive approach.

A well-balanced approach to communication is beneficial to all parties. It is predicated on mutual respect and engagement. What are some of the ways we can speak assertively?

Hearing in Different Spaces

First, we can orchestrate our physical self and space in a strategic fashion. The following are some tips you can implement:

  • For social engagements, such as dinners or lunches with friends, family or colleagues be proactive about the venue.
  • Call or message ahead to find out their busiest times and days and schedule your gathering to avoid those times.
  • Peruse their website to see if they booths, private rooms or corner locations away from sources of high traffic or high noise levels such as the main door, kitchen, speakers or patio.
  • At the location try and get seated where there is plenty of light so that you can see everyone as they speak.
  • When researching the restaurant look at their menu and try and plan ahead as to which dishes are of interest. When you are at a restaurant ask for a printed menu and their daily specials. Point to what you want if it facilitates the order.
  • When seated at a table in a restaurant or at a work meeting try and position yourself in the middle where you can read people’s faces and body language.
  • If you find yourself entering into a conversation don’t hesitate to ask the topic so that you can engage within its context.

Develop an assertive approach

Practice letting people know you have a hearing condition so that you can remain confident and participate. Disclosure of your condition with a suggestion for others as to how to effectively communicate with you is most helpful. For example, “I just want to let you know that I have mild hearing loss so if you could face me when speaking I can read your lips and also get a better context of the conversation.”

To ensure you have the right information repeat what has been said to confirm. Taking notes for dates, times and locations can also help keep miscommunications at bay.

If the venue allows it, ask if you can turn down background noise such as the TV, music or fans.

If the conversation becomes too overwhelming for you to keep up with you can always ask people to recap or you can also take a little break and find a quiet spot to recoup. Be confident to ask for what you need because most people are willing to accommodate once they know you have a hearing impairment.

Gauge your own mental and physical levels. If the anxiety or fatigue is too extreme do not hesitate to postpone or leave a conversation or for another time.

When miscommunications do occur, try the following:

  • Keep your sense of humor and stay polite.
  • Use the first person or “I” statements.
  • Offer explanations.
  • Be specific in your request.
  • Ask the person if it’s okay to change your location if there is too much background noise.
  • If you do guess what people are saying, check back with them for confirmation.

Don’t hesitate to engage your best friend or loved one in practicing these scenarios so that once you are out and about you will already have something scripted should you need it!

Beverly Hills Hearing Center

At Beverly Hills Hearing Center, we look forward to answering any questions about your hearing health. Improving your overall hearing health is our goal. Give us a call for your first appointment and we can look forward to creating a healthier, fuller life of hearing.