8 Tips For Better Communication With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can make conversations more challenging. Often we must rely on our conversation partners to practice communication best practices like facing us when they speak and providing context before changing topics. But communication is a two-way street. There are also many things we can do to enhance our ability to have successful and productive interactions with others. By following some simple rules of thumb, we can put ourselves in a better position to hear and communicate as best as is possible.
Here are my tips. Please share yours in the comments.
1. Inform Others About Your Hearing Loss
Don’t be shy about disclosing your hearing loss. People cannot help you if they do not know you are struggling. I make a habit of announcing my hearing loss at the start of any group meetings or retreats. It is easy to do as part of the introductions. This way I get the information out and avoid any awkwardness later when I ask someone to repeat themselves or grab a seat in the front row so I can hear the speaker better.
2. Be Specific About Your Needs
Let others know what they can do to help you hear your best. The more specific you are in your instructions — I need you to sit on my left side or please face me when you speak to me — the more likely you are to get good results. Be prepared to remind people what they can do to help. Since hearing loss is not visible, people sometimes quickly forget that you have trouble hearing.
3. Put Others At Ease
If you appear comfortable with your hearing loss, others will be as well. Let people know that they can ask you about it. I often joke with people saying, “If you say something to me and I don’t answer, or if I look at you like you have two heads, please don’t think I am rude, it is probably because I didn’t hear you.” Humor often makes people more forgiving of a social faux pas or two, and more willing to try again to engage you in conversation.
4. Stay Informed
Since context is so important in following conversations, try to stay abreast of current news and social happenings. It is easier to understand a new name (of a country or a celebrity) if you have seen it written about recently. This can be especially important if you are traveling to a different country where the names of historical figures and landmarks are less familiar to you.
5. Maintain Good Energy
Hearing takes extraordinary concentration for those with hearing loss so it is important to approach communication situations as well rested and alert as possible. Eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and be sure to get enough sleep. Also, don’t be afraid to take breaks from communication if your energy is lagging.
6. Interrupt for Clarification In Moderation
If you miss a word or two of a story, listen a little bit longer before jumping in with “What?” You may be able to piece together what was said after another sentence or two. This does not apply at the doctor, or in another situation where full knowledge is imperative, but in social situations, not following every detail is probably ok some of the time. Also, when asking for clarification, say what you think you heard to minimize what the speaker needs to repeat.
7. Use Non-Verbal Clues To Guide Your Communication Partner
Cupping your hand behind your ear is a good way to ask the speaker to raise his voice without interrupting the flow of the conversation. Leaning closer to somebody can also indicate that you are having trouble hearing them.
8. Go With The Flow
Manage your expectations. In certain situations, hearing every word is just not possible, but try to be grateful for what you can hear. Keep your sense of humor ready for the inevitable mishearings. Some of them can be quite funny if you let them.
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Last modified: January 19, 2018