older man with hand to ear having trouble hearing
12 Feb

Tips for Interacting with People with Hearing Loss

The major barrier to communication with people with hearing loss is often the lack of consideration by others. For successful and effective communication, all parties need to be aware and considerate.

Even if a person uses a hearing aid, others taking part in the conversation must use valuable communication strategies.

Get Attention

Like anyone else, to start a conversation you must start by seeking their attention, whether you call out their name or touch their elbow. If a person with hearing loss has better hearing capacity in one ear, consider moving to that side. You can also get their attention by making a few hand gestures or slightly touching their arm or shoulder. These minor indications will help you establish a compelling start to a conversation.

Face the Person

One of the best ways to communicate with anyone is by being in the same room as them. If you speak from another room, hearing becomes much more difficult.

Moreover, you must also face the other person directly, especially if they have hearing loss. Make eye contact and convey your messages with appropriate facial expressions and body language. For instance, show your emotions when you are happy, confused, or frustrated in front of the other person to help them understand what you are feeling.

Keep Your Hands Away From Your Face

While talking, refrain from keeping your hands on your face. You provide clearer speech and visual cues if your face and mouth are visible.

Interestingly, most people with hearing loss can comprehend by watching the speaker’s face – called lip-reading. Know that many sounds are harder to hear and easier to see. For instance, the sound ‘s’ is pretty challenging to hear but can be read on your lips. That said, you must not exaggerate your words or talk with a full mouth, as this may confuse the listener.

Make Lip Reading Easier

Only 30% of English language speech sounds are visible on the mouth under suitable conditions (1). Factors affecting lip-reading are facial expressions, distance from the other person, body language, and residual hearing. You may be able to converse easily in a quiet setting rather than a noisy and crowded environment.

Rephrase Rather than Repeat

If the listener fails to understand something, repeat your sentence once. If they still do not understand what you are saying, use a different word with the same meaning. For example, rephrase “I am heading to the drug store” with “I am going to the pharmacy.”

If they still do not get the word, try to rephrase it again. Remember – patience is the key!

Never Yell or Shout

Most individuals assume that you need to shout while talking to a person with a hearing disability or loss. While you may want to raise your voice a bit, make sure you don’t get too loud. In fact, yelling distorts mouth movements, making it difficult to lip read.

Hearing loss is common, and the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that around 15% of American adults over the age of 18 report some hearing issues. The study also suggests that around 2-3 of 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with hearing loss in one or both ears (2).

Treat a person with hearing loss as you would like to be treated. While speaking, be patient and considerate, and then you’ll be able to enjoy a conversation.

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