While participating in a conversation comes easily to most people, for those with hearing loss it can be a confusing, frustrating and ultimately alienating experience.
Even if the person with hearing loss wears hearing aids, it is important that other participants in the conversation employ helpful communication strategies like the ones listed here. This will ensure that the person with hearing loss can understand and contribute to the conversation.
- Position yourself to accommodate the person with hearing loss. Face them directly, in good light and on the same level. If they hear better in one ear, position yourself on that side.
- Do not attempt to talk to the person from another room. Those who are hard of hearing often need to see the talker to better understand what is being said.
- Speak clearly, slowly and naturally. Make sure to enunciate your words!
- Keep your hands and other obstructions away from your face. Hands, chewing gum and food can all make it harder to understand what you are saying.
- Be aware of background noise levels that might lead to difficulty for the listener with hearing loss. If possible, conduct the conversation in a quiet space.
- Pay attention to the listener’s facial expressions. Do they look lost or puzzled?
- In a group conversation, take turns speaking. Talking over others might confuse the listener.
- Get the listener’s attention before addressing them. This can be done with a wave or a polite tap on the arm.
- Do not simply repeat yourself over and over again if the listener does not understand something. Try phrasing the sentence differently, or write it down if necessary.
- Finally, do not shout or over-exaggerate facial expressions and mouth movements. This can appear aggressive and rude, and will only lead to confusion.