Communicating with Someone with a Hearing Loss

Hearing loss presents many challenges for communication. Obviously, volume is an issue, but with properly programed hearing aids, volume can be corrected. Clarity is another issue – certain types of hearing loss can cause speech sounds to be distorted, meaning even with enough volume, the sound is not clear. Another problem is background noise – compared to those with normal hearing, people with a hearing loss are often less able to hear speech distinctly in noisy settings. Lastly, the ability to process sound slows down with a hearing loss, so rapid speech becomes very unclear. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when talking to someone with a hearing loss:

1) Speak slowly and clearly: The words in rapid speech all blend together because of the longer processing time needed for people with hearing loss.
2) Don’t shout, move closer instead: Shouting actually distorts your voice, making it harder to understand, even in quiet settings.
3) Don’t cover your face or speak with your back turned: Facing the listener provides them with important visual cues to help tell similar words apart from each other (e.g. map vs tap).
4) If your words were misheard, try rephrasing instead of repeating: If a word was hard to understand once, it will probably be hard to understand the second time too – try explaining it a different way.
5) Turn off any competing background noise, like the TV or radio: Reducing background noise helps make your voice the main focus.