Communicating with Your Loved Ones Who Have Hearing Loss

Navigating conversations when you have hearing loss can be challenging. Even with hearing aids, conversations require active engagement and communication tools. It is important that everyone involved contributes to effective communication.

Learn more about the link between hearing loss and mental health. 

There are strategies you can implement to make communicating with your loved ones who have hearing loss easier. Implementing the following tips can help you support their hearing needs and engage in conversations with greater ease: 

  • Grab their attention.

    Before starting a conversation, grab your loved one’s attention. You can do this by saying their name or tapping them on the shoulder. This allows them to be ready for the conversation. It is also important to maintain visibility by facing them while you are talking. This helps provide greater access to nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language, which help people follow a conversation. Be sure to avoid calling out from a different room, speaking with your back towards them, or having their view obstructed. 

  • Practice communication strategies.

    There are a number of effective communication strategies you can practice to support your loved one’s hearing needs. A few strategies include: 

    • Not speaking too quickly, taking natural pauses between sentences. 
    • Emphasize body language, facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, etc. 
    • If your loved one hears better out of one ear, position yourself towards that ear. 
    • Introduce the topic of the conversation. 
    • Share detailed and specific information via text, email, and writing it down. 
    • Take turns speaking and avoid interrupting. 
  • Reduce background noise.

    We are exposed to varying levels of noise throughout the day. However, background noise can be especially challenging for people with hearing loss. It provides additional noise for the brain to have to process and filter through. This competing noise means that the brain has to work harder in trying to hear the speech it should prioritize. Background noise can also be distracting and prevent people from being able to hear each other clearly. Reduce background noise as much as possible by lowering volume settings on any music or TV playing, powering off any noisy appliances that are not in use, avoiding places like restaurants during peak hours, opting for quieter settings when going out, driving with the windows rolled up to minimize environmental noise, etc. 

  • Minimize multitasking.

    It is common to multitask during conversation – text, cook, clean, etc. However, these activities can create even more barriers during conversations by creating extra noise and distractions. Multitasking can prevent people from being fully present and engaged, which is especially important when having conversations with people whose hearing is impaired. It can also prevent you from being fully visible and using nonverbal cues. So avoid multitasking as much as possible so that you can be completely available and engaged while communicating with your loved one. 

  • Rephrase rather than repeat.

    Another useful strategy is to rephrase when there has been communication or something you said wasn’t fully heard. Rephrasing rather than repeating provides a new set of words for your loved one to hear and process. With some types of hearing loss, it can be challenging to hear specific sounds and pitches. So, using a new set of words creates a greater possibility for what you are saying to be heard with greater ease. 

  • Avoid speaking for them.

    A common mistake people make is speaking for their loved one with hearing loss. This can feel belittling and frustrating for your loved one. If they haven’t heard something, you can rephrase what is being said to them so they can respond themselves. This is a better way to support their hearing needs and independence. 

  • Pay attention.

    Another useful strategy to practice is being present and paying attention during the conversation. This allows you to notice if your loved one expresses a puzzled look or seems lost during the conversation. Being present and practicing active listening skills enables you to clarify if needed or to make adjustments to support your loved one’s hearing needs better. Be sure also to ask if there are other strategies that can be used to make the conversation and space more accessible for them. 

Practicing these strategies makes communicating with your loved ones who have hearing loss much easier. Your support and engagement make a significant difference. We can help you support your loved one’s hearing needs. Contact American Hearing + Audiology for an appointment at one of our top-rated hearing centers.