Hearing loss may make conversational speech seem very soft, or may prevent a person from hearing certain speech sounds at all. This is why people with hearing loss often say they can hear people talking, but can’t understand what they’re saying. They may be able to hear some sounds, so they can hear the person’s voice, but the hearing loss is blocking out the sounds that are vital to understanding. Usually, when a person is diagnosed with a hearing loss, hearing aids are recommended. Hearing aids are designed to amplify the sounds that the person needs the most, the sounds that they are unable to hear due to the hearing loss. Unfortunately, hearing aids have limitations and will not restore hearing to normal. Hearing aids are only part of the hearing loss puzzle. The best solution to increase hearing and understanding at the same time is to pair hearing aids with effective communication strategies.
Communication Strategies for a Person with Hearing Loss
• If you have hearing aids, wear them!
• Use visual cues—watch the speaker’s face, gestures, and body language.
• Reduce the distance between yourself and the speaker. Do not speak from one room to another, or from across the room.
• Reduce background noise, if possible. Turn off the TV, radio, or running water. Go out to eat to a quiet restaurant or during non-peak hours.
• If you didn’t understand something, let the speaker know...don’t just nod your head and agree.
• If you are joining a conversation already in progress, ask what the topic of conversation is. This will help you fill in words you don’t hear correctly.
• Ask the speaker to talk slowly. Speaking slowly leads to better pronunciation and more time to process the message.
• If you are having difficulty understanding someone, tell them what they can do to help you (e.g., slow down, look at your face, come closer).
Communication Strategies for Family and Friends of People with Hearing Loss
• Get close to the person (no more than 8 feet away). Do not speak from another room.
• Look at the person. Do not speak with your back toward the person with hearing loss. Try to speak face-to-face at all times.
• Speak slowly and distinctly. If the person is wearing hearing aids, you do not need to raise the volume of your voice.
• Reduce background noise. Turn off the TV, radio, or running water.
• Get the person’s attention before you start speaking. Do not start speaking while he is reading, watching TV, etc.
• When asked to repeat, rephrase the message instead.
• Do not turn your face away or walk away from the person with hearing loss.