Communication Strategies

Listening to conversation with a hearing loss is like listening to speech that has blanks or holes in it. Even people with a mild hearing loss need to be able to fill in the blanks (or holes) of speech with cues they obtain from the context of the conversation and from the cues they see on the speakers face and lips. The following strategies will assist the hearing impaired person to hear better in any situation.

When speaking to someone with a hearing loss it is best to follow some simple rules:

  • Always have the attention of the person you are talking to. Eye contact is especially important.
  • Always allow them to see your face, and especially your mouth, when you are talking. Talking while chewing or covering your mouth with your hand make it difficult for you to speak well and for people to read your lips
  • Speak slowly and clearly to allow the person with hearing loss time to think about the context of the conversation to fill in the blanks (or holes).  Speaking loudly or shouting usually distorts the words, making the word more difficult to be heard clearly.
  • Try to reword or rephrase rather than repeat information that was missed or misunderstood by the hearing impaired person.  Some words are more easily heard or lip-read than others
  • Move away from or reduce background noises such as music, air conditioning or other conversations. Background noise makes it more difficult for the hearing impaired person to hear or follow what was said.

The person with hearing loss can use the following strategies to ensure he/she receives the message

  • Tell your conversation partner why you did not hear them. For example:  Your wife/husband asks you a question while you are brushing your teeth.  Tell her or him that “I did not hear you because I was brushing my teeth.” Another example: Your wife or husband is asking you something while he or she is looking into the fridge for something to eat.  You tell them, “I cannot hear what you are saying because you are not looking at me.”
  • Tell your conversation partner what you did hear so that the word(s) missed can be communicated more clearly. For example: Your spouse asks you to get another item while you are at the store but you did not hear what the item is.  Say, “You want me to get what from the store?”
  • Ask people to speak more slowly and clearly
  • Ask people to look at you while talking
  • Ask if the noise in the background can be turned off or turned down or request to move away from the noise. For example: ask that the music in the restaurant be turned down or ask to sit in the quietest spot in the restaurant (away from the washroom, the kitchen or the main entrance)
  • Ask people not to cover their mouth while talking to you
  • Your conversation partner should be in the same room while talking to you, not walking away or in another room
  • Even with hearing aids it may still be difficult to hear some people in some situations. Misunderstandings will happen! Try to maintain your sense of humour about the mistakes as they happen!