Learning to Communicate with Hearing Aids

Communication with others can be difficult, even if you’re wearing your hearing aid. Here are some tips to help you communicate assertively.

Even if you have your hearing aids, are wearing them and your hearing ability has improved, you may notice that communication with others is still difficult. Learning to communicate with hearing aids will go a long way in improving the quality of your life.

Wearing hearing aids isn’t like wearing spectacles – your hearing and communication with others aren’t perfectly restored the moment you put them on. But, if you combine some communication strategies with wearing your hearing aids it will go a long way towards seamless communication with those around you. 

Three Different Communications Styles

Every person has a communication style, whether they have a hearing loss or not. You’ll need to keep your communication style in mind when using these communication strategies because you might need to be a little more assertive in your communication style when communicating with hearing loss.

In a nutshell, there are three different kinds of communication styles:

  • Passive communication is common amongst people with hearing loss and is characterized by withdrawal from conversations, little participation, and ‘pretending’ to hear or understand, to avoid embarrassment. 
  • Aggressive communication occurs when people tend to “take over” conversations and if any misunderstandings should happen, they believe it to be the fault of the other person.
  • Assertive communication is the most balanced communication style, with each person in the conversation taking responsibility for their hearing and understanding, but also taking the initiative to ask for clarification or repetition when needed.

Tips To Help You Communicate with Hearing Aids

To ease your communication with others, it is necessary to become a more assertive communicator. Here are some communication tips that you can use in any environment:

  • Tell others that you have a hearing loss and that you need them to speak a little slower and look at you while they’re speaking. If they don’t know that you have a hearing loss, they can’t be more mindful of what your needs are. 
  • Try to keep background noise as low as possible
  • If you think that you might have misheard what the other person said, repeat what you heard. Then ask if you heard them correctly.
  • Get a direct view of the speaker’s face. Everyone, with a hearing loss or not, uses lipreading to understand what others are saying to them. 
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone mishears things in a conversation from time to time and hearing in complex listening environments is very tiring. Give yourself a break if you need to. 

Tips To Make Your Environment Conducive to Effective Communication

The environment communicate plays an important role in communicating successfully, even for those without hearing loss. Here are ways in which you can ensure that the environment you’re in helps you to communicate effectively: 

  • Make sure that your environment is well-lit so that you can see everyone’s faces and lips clearly. Lighting is really important.
  • If you’re going to a restaurant with friends or family, try to go at a time when the restaurant isn’t too busy and choose a venue that you know has good lighting and as little noise as possible.
  • If you’re in a group of people, position yourself in the middle, so that you can see everyone clearly. 
  • Ask someone for the conversation topic, if you’re going to be in a group conversation so that you have context. 

Tips To Help You Avoid Misunderstandings

Communication breakdowns and misunderstandings will happen, at some time or another. This happens even in conversations between people without hearing loss! Here are some tips that will help you keep the misunderstandings to the absolute minimum:1

  • If you’re going to participate in a conversation where you know what will be discussed beforehand, such as a meeting, read through the agenda, or any background information that is available to you.
  • Move to a quieter environment and if necessary, ask the other person to repeat themselves.
  •  Ask for help from the other person and make them aware of your hearing loss, it will help them make communication easier for you in the understand your position. They can help you by:
      • Turning their face toward you when they speak. 
      • Speaking a little slower, not louder.
      • Using shorter sentences
      • Repeating or writing down important details, such as appointment dates or times. 
      • Getting your attention before speaking to you.

If you can communicate with confidence and ease you’ll have a better quality of life. These tips to help you learn to communicate effectively with hearing aids will help you to connect with the people around you comfortably.

1 Healthy Hearing. (2014). Communication strategies if you have hearing loss. Retrieved February 24, 2020, from https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/51738-Communication-strategies-if-you-have-hearing-loss

Written byRenate Olinger

Masters in Audiology

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