Once the results of the audiogram have been obtained and hearing loss has been established, the audiologist will recommend ways to help you communicate better.
As you know, communication is a two-way street. The hearing-impaired person (with or without hearing aids) and his or her counterpart both play important roles in reducing comprehension issues that can arise in a discussion. Adapted communication strategies can help both people.
Tips for people with hearing loss:
- Tell your conversation partner that you are hard of hearing.
- Ask the person to rephrase what they said.
- Indicate which part you did not understand.
- Ask the person to repeat what they said.
- Do not pretend to understand.
- Stay calm and relaxed during the conversation.
- Move to a different place or get closer to the other person to help the sound reach your ears or to be able to read lips more easily.
- Decrease background noise at its source if possible.
- Suggest specific strategies to your counterpart (“Could you please speak slower, louder, spell out the word, etc.”).
- Ask conversation partners to always speak facing you and close to you.
- Explain to your conversation partners how important it is for only one person to speak at a time.
- Before a group meeting, pick out one person you would like to speak with and sit next to him or her.
- Use a notepad so your conversation partner can write out the words you have trouble understanding.
- Sit in a well-lit location near the speaker.
- Don’t try to communicate if you can’t see your counterpart.
- Sit at a round table, if possible, to facilitate lip reading.
- Eliminate noise sources by standing or sitting near a wall.
- Position yourself where you can see the faces of your conversation partners clearly, to be able to read lips and facial expressions.
- Keep windows behind you to prevent backlighting behind your counterpart.
Optimized lip reading
- Use visual clues like facial expressions and body language to compensate for the sounds or words you did not hear.
- Make it a habit to look directly at the face of the person speaking, even if you seem to be understanding well.
- Identify the subject of the conversation and avoid interrupting your conversation partner.
- Concentrate on the meaning of the sentences (use the context to understand).
Lip reading is not a replacement for hearing, but it can help you understand better. It’s not easy, though. Learning to lip read is like learning a new language: it takes time and practice.
Tips for friends and family:
- Get the person’s attention gently before beginning to speak.
- Choose a well-lit, calm place for your conversation.
- Avoid places with background noise.
- Stand or sit facing the person.
- Speak slowly and clearly. Do not yell or exaggerate your pronunciation.
- Do not hide your lips, or lower or turn your head.
- Tell the person the subject of the conversation and let them know when it changes.
- Use simple, short sentences. Rephrase sentences that were not understood.
- Use different words to restate a message that wasn’t understood.
- Use relevant gestures.
- Write down key words if necessary.
- Do not speak to the person if you are not in the same room.
Meeting with a hearing health professional will help you find the best communication strategies for your particular needs.