If someone you love is struggling to hear, chances are you’re both frustrated! As a person with hearing loss, I’m here to offer some helpful tips for better communication with people who have hearing loss. These tips are important to follow even if the person with hearing loss wears hearing aids.
Always get the person’s attention first
This one is BIG. You can’t just start talking to someone with hearing loss – you need to make sure they are “tuned in” to you first. For people with hearing loss, listening is work, so you need to make sure they aren’t focused on the TV (or, in my case, watching a video on their phone with the sound in their hearing aids) before you start talking to them.
Face the person
Even with the best hearing aids, it is usually difficult for me to hear someone who is not facing me. This is due to the way sound travels – if you point the sound in another direction, it goes that way, not to the person you’re speaking to. So, it’s really important to “point” that sound at the person you’re speaking with.
Many people with hearing loss also lip-read, which means they need to be able to see your face and mouth when you’re talking. Try not to cover your mouth with your hands or talk to them with a menu in front of your face.
This one is a bit subjective, but try to speak clearly – avoid mumbling, whispering, or making quiet little comments when you talk to someone with hearing loss. You don’t need to shout, but making sure each of your words is clear is worth the effort.
Try to minimize background noise
Depending on the situation you’re in, try to minimize background noise. At home, this might mean turning off the music or muting the TV before you have a conversation. When dining out at a restaurant, choose one that has more sound-dampening material or a quiet outdoor dining space. If you’re hosting a dinner, ask the person with hearing loss where they would prefer to sit, and don’t put on music if conversation is the goal.
Don’t say “never mind” – the phrase “never mind” is universally loathed by the hearing loss community! “Never mind” makes the person who can’t hear feel left out and like their inclusion doesn’t matter to you. Always make the effort to help the person understand instead of telling them “never mind.”
No whispering – One of the things that helped me realize I had hearing trouble was not being able to hear whispers. Hearing aids help me to hear them in quiet environments, but I still struggle if someone is whispering during a meeting or dinner out. It is best to use a text message for “secret” communications with your buddies who have hearing loss!
No yelling from other rooms – You know when you’re at home and you shout to a spouse or child to bring something to you? Well, chances are your family member with hearing loss can’t hear what you’re asking for! Avoid the frustration and try not to do this. Go back to the first rule we talked about above – get their attention first – you can’t usually do that well from another room. This may take some time to get used to, but it will lead to better communication and less frustration if you can all agree to stop trying to talk to each other when you aren’t in the same room.
I hope these tips help you and your loved ones communicate more effectively! If you haven’t started wearing hearing aids yet or need to get a baseline hearing test, check out your local HearingLife! The licensed professionals there are happy to help you get started on your journey to better hearing health.