Tips for Communicating With Someone Who is Hearing Impaired
Does someone you know wear hearing aids but they still sometimes have difficulty understanding what is being said? Hearing aids cannot fix the damage inside the ear, they simply amplify the damaged haircells. So sometimes the person still may misinterprete what is being said. There are things you can do to help the person understand correctly the first time:
- Understand that hearing aids do not restore normal hearing. We can do amazing things with hearing aids but they cannot repair the damage to the auditory system.
- Remember that just because a person can hear your voice, does not mean they can understand your words. Hearing loss may cause distortion in the way sounds are perceived. “Toothpaste” may sound like “suitcase” even when speech is loud enough.
- Speak naturally and with normal expression. People with hearing loss may need things repeated. But when a person with hearing loss isn’t understanding you, your natural instinct may be to raise your voice. Shouting or raising your voice can often make things more distorted. Louder doesn’t mean clearer, it just means loud!
- Slow down your rate of speech.
- Quiet places will assist communication. Be aware of noises that may be in the listening environment that can effect speech understading. Things like air conditioners, fans, TVs, water running, restaurant noise, and other people’s conversations can all significantly effect the ease of communication for someone with hearing loss.
- Gain someone’s attention before you start a conversation. Address them directly by saying their name before starting a conversation so they have time to focus.
- Hearing aids will help you hear conversations at a reasonable distance. Decrease the distance between you and the listener. This is the single most effective way to increase understanding. Speech understanding is significantly decreased beyond 15 feet so do not expect your loved one to understand you when you are in the basement and they are on the 3rd floor! If you can’t see the person’s face, you are probably too far away for effective communication.
- Rephrase. If a hard of hearing person needs something repeated, instead of repeating it the exact same way, try rephrasing it.
For example: “We are meeting the Smiths for dinner at 6.”
“We are going to the Outback with Joan and Bob for dinner tonight.”
- Finally, look directly at the person! Most people with hearing loss use visual cues to fill in where they may misunderstand. The lips, face and body gestures all provide valuable cues and can help fill in for sounds they are not getting.
Dr. Shannon Gibbons