Tips for Communicating with Hearing Loss

In Communication by Kim Greive

Kim Greive

Hearing loss can present communication challenges that impact daily life. A reduced ability to hear and process sound can make conversations difficult; affecting relationships, job performance, social life, and overall wellness. Treating hearing loss alleviates symptoms that strain communication, transforming hearing health. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are small, electronic devices that provide significant hearing support. Hearing aids maximize hearing, improving communication and navigating daily life more comfortably. In addition to wearing hearing aids, there are several strategies you can practice to communicate effectively!

  1. Communicate Hearing Loss 

Disclosing hearing loss can be challenging. But sharing this with others is such a great way to discuss your hearing needs. Letting family, friends, coworkers etc. know allows them to also participate in creating accessible conversations (and spaces) that support your hearing. This alleviates the stress, anxiety, and pressure you may feel around navigating conversations with hearing loss. Additionally, disclosing your hearing loss with your employer allows you to engage in the conversation around workplace accommodations which you are entitled to. 

  1. Share Helpful Strategies

Sharing your hearing loss with others also allows you to have conversations about your hearing needs and strategies that are most useful. You likely know a few strategies that help you best hear and follow conversations. Sharing these tips with others so that they can participate in communicating clearly is a helpful way to interact with others smoothly. Strategies can include: 

  • facing you so that they speaker is clearly visible and you have access to nonverbal cues 
  • speaking in a normal tone (not too quietly and not too loudly)
  • rephrasing rather than repeating if you are experiencing difficulty 
  • grabbing your attention before starting the conversation so that you are ready and fully available
  • writing down or texting detailed information (addresses, phone numbers, dates etc.) 
  1. Avoid Multitasking

It is common to multitask during a conversation: texting, emailing, cooking, driving etc. But this can be really distracting while engaging in a conversation. It can often make it difficult to be fully present and focused on hearing and processing what is being communicated. This can be particularly impactful for people with hearing loss because distractions and additional noise can really present barriers for hearing clearly. The brain is already exerting much effort to process incoming sound information so being distracted by other noise or activities makes this more challenging. 

  1. Reduce Background Noise

Another major source of distraction is background noise. Background noise provides competing sound(s) for the brain to process. This can be overwhelming and strain hearing capacity. It is important to reduce background noise as much as possible so that you are able to hear clearly. This means turning off the TV, background music, loud household appliances in addition to avoiding places with noisy environments (restaurants, large venues etc.). Avoid peak hours and/or opt for quieter settings that are more conducive to having conversations. 

  1. Ask for Clarification

It is important to advocate for your hearing needs. This includes asking for clarification when needed. Rather than pretending to hear, experiencing confusion, and/or being unsure about what someone has said; be sure to communicate when something is unclear. This can be as simple as asking the other person to rephrase what they just said or asking them to slow down if they are speaking quickly. Remember that the other person wants to be understood by you so do not hesitate to share when you may need clarification. 

Adjusting to hearing aids and retraining the way you hear takes time and patience. Be generous and kind to yourself and others as you explore strategies and ways of communicating. Miscommunication or missing parts of a conversation is part of the process. Integrating these tips into daily communication can help create pleasant interactions that you feel confident navigating. 

Communicating your hearing needs and asking others to make minor adjustments are really helpful ways to support your hearing. Effective communication requires energy and active participation from everyone involved. Remember that it is not just your responsibility but that communication is an exchange so including others by sharing strategies allows them to also contribute to easeful interaction.