You probably know the saying, “It takes two to tango.” It also takes two to communicate. Talking at someone and expecting them to hear you is very different from making a concerted effort to communicate. Speaking to someone who is hard of hearing requires making adjustments to your communication style. To help improve your capacity to communicate with someone who is hard of hearing, I have put together 10 quick tips that are guaranteed to reduce misunderstandings and improve communication if used correctly.
1. Have Patience
Your attitude will go a long way toward improving communication. Although conversations with those who are hard of hearing might become frustrating, have patience and stay focused on communicating rather than the challenge. Without patience, the next nine tips won’t work.
2. Eliminate Background Noise
Do your best to choose a location without a lot of background noise. Turn down or turn off electronics and appliances, and move away from crowds, noisy streets, or the busiest part of a restaurant.
3. Consider the Lighting
Visual, non-verbal cues make a big difference when communicating with someone who is hard of hearing. Lighting that allows the other person to see you well goes a long way toward enhancing the conversation.
4. Maintain Eye Contact
Eye contact is powerful because your facial expressions are a necessary part of clear communication. The capacity of one who is hard of hearing to see various emotions helps to clarify what you are saying even if they miss a few words here and there.
5. Keep Your Hands Clear of Your Face
Having your hands in front of your mouth or near your face can muffle sounds or prevent the other person from picking up on visual cues. Make a conscious effort to avoid speaking when your hands are near your face.
6. Get Their Attention
Assuming that the person can hear you talking and is ignoring you is one of the most frustrating situations. You can avoid it by making sure that you have the other person’s attention before speaking to them rather than speaking to their back and making an assumption.
7. Speak Clearly
Speaking clearly is necessary, but it can be overdone. Make a conscious effort to enunciate clearly without raising your voice or exaggerating your lip movements. Pause frequently to allow them to catch up or ask for clarification, and provide clear signals when you change subjects. This prevents them from having to strain or struggle to keep up with the conversation.
8. Repeat Important Information
When you communicate important information to someone who is hard of hearing, it is necessary to repeat what you have said and ask them to repeat it back to you. By doing this, you ensure the very best possible communication and avoid misunderstandings. This is a pretty good habit to get into even with people who are not hard of hearing.
9. Rephrase Rather Than Repeat
For those with a hearing loss, various sounds, tones, or words can be difficult to process. This is usually because consonants can be lost and a sentence can sound like one long string of vowels. When someone asks you to repeat something, choose different words rather than repeating the exact same words.
10. Use Technology
There are apps you can download on your smartphone which can help with communication. This is similar to closed captioning on a video or television, but you can use it when speaking with someone face to face.
Keeping these ten tips in mind when speaking with individuals with a hearing loss will improve communication and reduce frustration on both sides. The team at Coastal Hearing Center and I are passionate advocates for using the very best communication techniques to communicate with those who are hard of hearing.
Contact us for more assistance with communicating with hard of hearing loved ones, or make an appointment to discuss specific hearing loss challenges at the Biloxi or Gulfport Coastal Hearing Center nearest to you.