Communicating With People Who Have Hearing Loss
Published: March 15, 2023
Hearing loss is an invisible impairment that can cause noticeable difficulties for individuals living with hearing loss. It’s helpful if the family members of people with hearing impairments educate themselves. on what to keep in mind when communicating with people who have hearing loss. There are many factors that can cause hearing loss. To better understand what hearing loss is, it’s important to understand what normal hearing is and how we hear.
A person hears normally when their hearing level falls between the range of -10dB to 25dB for adults and -10 to 15dB for children. A person with normal hearing should not experience problems with hearing, especially in background noise, e.g. restaurants, shopping malls, parks, beaches, etc. However, if you struggle to hear outside of these decibel ranges, you could be experiencing some form of hearing loss.
What can you do to help?
Understanding the situation can be helpful to both hearing-impaired individuals, and their loved ones. Here are some ways that could help you communicate with a hearing-impaired individual better:
You should speak each word clearly and precisely. Use key phrases such as “Now I want to talk about”. This helps the hearing-impaired person to know that the topic of conversation has changed.
When there is a communication breakdown, repeating the sentence or word helps the person to understand. Do not shout or get frustrated when you have to repeat what you have said. Those who are hearing-impaired are already frustrated that they cannot hear clearly so shouting might frustrate them more, or prevent them from asking you to repeat if they did not hear correctly for fear of upsetting you.
Ask the person questions on the topic you discussed to confirm that they heard you correctly and that you’re both on the same page. Confirmation can eliminate any potential misunderstandings further along the conversation when you reference back to something earlier, or create the wrong context if you are explaining something.
Get the attention of the person before starting a conversation, changing a topic, or jumping into an already existing conversation. Those who suffer with hearing loss struggle to focus on more than one conversation at a time, especially if there is a lot of activity going on around them. Grabbing their attention will better direct their focus, which leaves less chances for misunderstandings, and frustration (from you and from the other person).
Talking to someone who is facing away from you is a challenge, even for those who have good hearing so it is especially hard for those with hearing loss, to fully follow a conversation with someone facing away from them. Those with hearing loss – even those without – read lips when they are trying to follow a conversation, which is why it is important to face them. Facing them allows them to add an extra method of “listening” to someone, formulating better context, and have a clearer understanding of what is being said.
Use gestures when speaking, like hand gestures, to demonstrate something or point to something that you are talking about. Gestures can provide added context for those suffering with hearing loss, and make it easier for them to follow a conversation.
Facial expressions follow the same idea as gestures; they provide extra context as to whether the tone of the conversation is happy, worrisome, serious, and so on. The added context is a way that those with hearing loss can easily determine the tone of a conversation without hearing it in your voice.
Similarly to asking someone with hearing loss to confirm if they are understanding you, ask them what you can do to help them understand you better. Remember that every person with a hearing impairment’s experiences and challenges are unique to them. By asking them what works for them will help you to use specific methods that will help them.
Ensure that the room is well lit. Hearing-impaired individuals often rely on non-verbal signs such as body language, facial expressions, and lipreading to help them understand better and improve communication, all of which are greatly enhanced in a well-lit environment.
Avoid background noise
Try to communicate where there is less background noise. If you can communicate where there is no noise that would be ideal however, that is not always possible. You can also ask others to speak softer in the room when you communicate with a person with hearing loss.
Being diagnosed with hearing loss can be an overwhelming experience for your loved one. They can go through a wide range of experiences and a rollercoaster of emotions. Try to be understanding about the hearing loss and the impact it has on your loved one, it can help make their journey less overwhelming and more manageable.
Are you, or a loved one, curious to learn more about your hearing health? Lexie Hearing has a free online hearing test you can take from the comfort of your own home. Take the test today to find out if you can benefit from Lexie hearing aids.