Man sitting in meeting with hearing aid behind his ear

9 Ways To Navigate A Meeting With Hearing Loss

Published: August 17, 2023

Suffering from hearing loss as a working professional can make effective communication quite challenging. Miscommunication can happen easily, which can lead to a number of undesired outcomes and a stressful work environment. Meetings are one area in particular where miscommunication can occur and the chances are even greater with hearing loss. Thankfully, there are some strategies you can employ to help you better navigate a meeting with hearing loss. 

Strategies to Navigate A Meeting With Hearing Loss

Communicate your hearing loss

The most helpful thing you can do is also sometimes the hardest – you need to talk about your hearing loss. More importantly, you need to communicate that you have a hearing loss and explain what that looks like and means for the people in the room. Not only does this let the other participants in the meeting know what to expect but it opens a dialogue for what you need, in order to better understand everyone – more on that later.

Talking about hearing loss can be incredibly daunting for many as it has been stigmatized for so long. The fear of being judged for having a hearing loss, and wearing a hearing aid, is a major reason why so many people are hesitant to seek treatment in the first place. However, it is important to talk about it (not just to remove the stigma) but also so that effective communication can happen.

Consider the meeting space

Request a meeting space that will have as little background noise as possible. You also want to make sure that the room is as small as possible so that speech does not have a lot of space or distance to travel. 

Sit as close to the speaker as possible

Make sure that you sit as close to the person speaking as possible. If you know that there will be more than one person speaking during the meeting, ask if they can sit as close together as possible so that you do not need to move around during the meeting. In the case of a teleconference meeting, sit as close to the equipment speaker as possible. 

Ask for what you need

Don’t be shy to ask participants for exactly what you need in order to be as effective at communicating as possible. Miscommunication can be largely avoided if the meeting members know how best to communicate with you. 

Here are examples of some requests you can make:

  • Ask participants to face you when they speak, 
  • Ask them to speak slowly, not more loudly, 
  • Suggest that they check with you after they have spoken to you, to see if you understand everything that was said.

Man holding one hearing aid and a charger case

Speak facing you

During a meeting, it can be difficult to tell if someone’s comments are directed at you or at someone else in the meeting. Asking someone to face you when they are talking to you, especially before any important information is given, is a signal that whatever the speaker is saying, is meant for you specifically. This signal also emphasizes that you need to focus on what the speaker is saying, as it pertains specifically to you. Lastly, it will be easier to understand what they are saying if your focus is directed in one single direction before any important information is relayed. 

Grab your attention

Simply facing you may not be enough so it is essential for you to ask everyone in the meeting to actively grab your attention before they speak to you. It can be helpful to have a unique prompt, whether verbal or not, specifically for you. This way, you limit the risk of misinterpreting someone trying to get your attention, which could be frustrating for you and others. 

Speak slowly and clearly

Reading lips is an incredibly effective way to better understand someone when they are speaking to you. Asking those in the meeting to speak slowly and clearly to you will not only allow you to hear them better, but it will allow you to read lips better so that you miss as little of what they are saying as possible. This also extends to whispering and speaking too loudly as that can cause miscommunication as well. 

Repetition

Don’t pretend to understand something if you don’t, or pretend that you have heard something if you haven’t. Rather ask the speaker to repeat themselves so that you don’t miss something that could be important. It may require patience but it is far more reasonable than if you pretend to understand, only to miss it later down the line.

Use technology to help

If you have any form of hearing loss, it is recommended that you use a pair of hearing aids – such as Lexie OTC hearing aids – to help you hear better. Ask if there is any other technology that could further aid you, such as a companion microphone you can connect to that will feed speech directly into your hearing aids, or live-captions. Further, if there is any information that could be visually represented, it could be easier for you to understand. 

In Summary

Working in a professional environment with hearing loss can be intimidating and could present a host of various challenges, including miscommunication. Using the 9 strategies to navigate a meeting with hearing loss that we have discussed above can be helpful in making communication in a meeting space more effective for both yourself and everyone involved. Also, you reduce any possible frustration by ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations and key points from the meeting.

Image of post writer Natalie Gould.

Written by Natalie Gould

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