Tips on Communicating with Hard of Hearing People

Communication means being heard and understood. Communication with hard of hearing people can be managed with a little understanding and a few adjustments on the part of those who have normal hearing.  Here are some techniques that will make a listening situation more comfortable and productive for a hard of hearing person.

Speaking:

  • Enunciate clearly, but do not exaggerate as this can be confusing and embarrassing for the listener
  • Speak at a normal pace using appropriate pauses.
  • Speak at a normal volume; do not shout. Shouting can be a further impediment to hearing clearly.
  • If necessary, spell or write missed names or words.
  • Try to clarify your meaning by re-phrasing something that the person has missed.

Body Language:

  • Wait until you are facing the person before you begin to speak.
  • Use body language (eye contact, a gentle touch or motion) to get the person’s attention before you begin to speak
  • Keep your face in view and limit head movements – this allows the person to speech read. Avoid putting your hands up to your face, smoking or chewing gym while talking. These behaviors can interfere with the person’s ability to hear and speech read what you are saying.
  • Do not whisper or speak into the ear of a hard of hearing person. This prevents the person from seeing your face and reading your speech. If a person is wearing a hearing aid, whispering into their ear is ineffective.
  • Speak directly to the hard of hearing person, not a third person who is present for support.
  • Be aware that moustaches and beards can mask your lips and facial expressions to such an extent that the hard of hearing person has great difficulty understanding you.

Environment and Location

  • Select a quiet spot to talk
  • Avoid standing in the sunlight or at a window where you are backlit while facing a hard of hearing person. This puts them in a position of looking into your shaded face, and unable to read your speech and expressions.
  • Avoid walking and talking. Since both of you are facing forward, neither the sound nor view of your face is available to the hard of hearing person
  • Other situations that prove difficult for the hard of hearing are talking in stairwells due to the echo, carrying on a conversation in a car while one of you is driving, or talking on a busy street where traffic noise and vehicle and pedestrian movement are distracting.
  • When in doubt, check with the hard of hearing person. He/she is most able to identify the ideal place for talking.