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Communication Strategies for Hearing Loss

"When someone in the family has hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem."  This is a quote from Mark Ross, Ph.D., a distinguished audiologist with severe hearing loss himself.  Sometimes, even with hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices, gaps in communication may exist.  Communication is a two-way street, and both the listener with the hearing loss, and his or her communication partner, can contribute to reducing problems that may arise during a conversation. Below are some communication strategies for both the listener and the communication partner that can maximize successful conversational experiences: 

1. Gain Attention

Gain the listener's attention before you begin talking, for example, by saying his or her name, or by touching the listener's hand, arm, or shoulder lightly.  This simple gesture will prepare the listener to listen and allow him or her to hear the first part of the conversation. 

2. Maintain Eye Contact

Visual communication is very important.  Your facial expressions and body language add vital information to the communication.  For example, you can "see" a person's anger, frustration, and/or excitement by watching the expression on his or her face.  Most listeners make use of lip-reading, naturally.  By lip reading, you can understand some sounds that are more difficult to hear, especially in difficult listening situations.  Positioning yourself in good lighting whenever possible will help visual communication. 

3.  Hands Off

When talking, keep your hands away from your face.  Maintain good manners by not speaking with food in your mouth.  You will produce clearer speech and allow the listener to make use of those visual cues. 

4. Speak Naturally

Speak distinctly, but without exaggeration.  You do not need to shout.  Shouting actually distorts the words.  Do not mumble or speak too rapidly, as this type of speech is very hard to understand, even for people with normal hearing. Speak at a normal rate, not too fast nor too slow.  Use pauses rather than slow speech to give the listener time to process speech.  

5. Rephrase, Rather Than Repeat

If the listener has difficulty understanding something you said, find a different way of saying it.  If he or she did not understand the words the first time, it's likely he or she may not understand them a second time.  So, try to rephrase using different words. 

6. Reduce Background Noise

Try to reduce background noise when conversing.  Turn off the radio or television.  Move to a quiet corner or away from the noise source.  When going to a restaurant or making dinner reservations, ask for a table away from the kitchen, server stations, bar, or large parties.  Take control of the environment when possible; do not let it control you. 

7. Use Anticipatory Strategies

Stay up-to-date on current events, read reviews of movies or plays in advance of attending, learn names of conversing partners at the beginning of the conversation, and obtain meeting agendas in advance.  A bit of preparation can help you anticipate the topics of conversation, making it easier to converse.  

At The Center for Audiology, we want to #keepHoustonhearing by maximizing the residual hearing of the patient, and by educating the patient and his/her significant others regarding strategies such as the ones above.  For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call us at 713-255-0035.