Tips for Hard of Hearing People

Communication is a two way street. In any conversation, we alternate between sending messages, and receiving messages back. The messages we send and receive aren’t only those spoken and heard. Information is also conveyed through body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and the distance between us. We may be communicating feelings or ideas we did not intend to share. Communication involves much more than speaking and listening.

Communicating through conventional means can be very difficult for hard of hearing people. The usual habits of communication within a family, social or work group may have become well-established and can be difficult to change when a member of the group experiences hearing loss. With co-operation and effort from both hearing and hard of hearing members, the the group can develop new and effective ways to communicate

Effective communication between ourselves and others is our goal. It involves not only being a good listener, but making ourselves understood.  Good communication can be a challenge even at the best of times. When one or both of the people in the communication process is hard of hearing, effective communication becomes a new challenge. The good news is that there are ways that hard of hearing people can become better at communicating with others. In the process, we can help our family, friends and co-workers achieve effective communication with us.

Consider these situations and ask yourself how you may have handled similar challenges.

  • You were buying groceries and couldn’t hear what the cashier was saying, so you ignored her, paid and left.
  • You were at the dinner table with your family and couldn’t hear anything being said, so you did the dishes and cleaned up.
  • When you were unable to hear your son or daughter, you said angrily, “If you would only speak up and slow down, I would be able to hear you!”
  • A friend asked you out for lunch at a restaurant you know to be very noisy. You realized you wouldn’t be able to hear so you made an excuse for not going.
  • In a discussion a friend was unable to get you to understand a comment and after two tries said “never mind, just forget it”.

It’s not unusual for hard of hearing people to isolate themselves from social situations and sometimes even from family, to react with anger and frustration when unable to communicate well, and to blame others for their own challenges. Some of the following tips for communication with others will help you to deal with these kinds of difficult situations more effectively. Once you can apply some of the following strategies, you will be able to share your improved communication methods with others.

How to Better Communicate with Hearing People

  1. Let others know you have a hearing loss. Once you let the person you are speaking to know about your hearing loss he/she will be more responsive to your needs.
  2. Learn speech reading skills and attend a class for people with hearing loss. In this setting you benefit from the support of others who have experienced hearing loss. By sharing your own experiences and learning from theirs, you will become more adept at meeting new situations.
  3. Let others know how they can help you to hear and understand them: You might say “If you face me and speak slowly and clearly, I will be able to understand you better. You don’t need to raise your voice”
  4. Don’t hesitate to ask for help whenever you need it. Be sure to begin by disclosing that you are hard of hearing and explain what help you need.
  5. Do not hesitate to ask someone to repeat what he/she said. Don’t accept a response of “Never mind”. If it was important enough to say the first time, it is worth repeating.
  6. In a social setting, structure where and with whom you interact. If you want to interact with one or two others, you could suggest moving to a quieter area to carry on a conversation.
  7. When attending a group event or lecture, get there early to find seating close to the speaker where you will be able to speech read. Do not hesitate to ask if someone can make room for you where you will be able to hear and see better.
  8. Find out if the venue has assistive hearing devices available for patrons and request this equipment in advance so that it’s there when you need it.  Some event producers may be able to offer captioning services – but you have to ask well in advance so they can arrange for the service.
  9. Be positive, but realistic in your expectations of yourself. When you set your goals at an achievable level, you won’t be disappointed, and may even be able to aim higher the next time.
  10. We’ve saved the best for last – Maintain your sense of humor!