North Carolina Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc.
Hearing loss affects communication for both the person with the loss and for people with normal hearing trying to communicate with the person with a loss.
Even with appropriate intervention like hearing aids or assistive listening devices, it's important for both sides of that communication problem to understand things they can do (or should avoid) that can improve the communication. Many of these things, while simple, are not obvious to either person in the conversation. That's why NCSHHH has prepared these two sets of tips ... one for each side of the communication.
See the Tips.
This tip is important because many hard of hearing people try to hide their hearing loss. This is a BIG mistake. It doesn't fool anyone, and it can make you look stupid. It is much better to be recognized as hard of hearing than to appear stupid. Most people are happy to help someone with a hearing loss, but less inclined to help someone they perceive as stupid.
Project a "can-do" image.
Hearing loss can be a problem, alright, but it's your job to overcome the problems it presents. A positive attitude about this challenge is infectious. People you communicate with will see that attitude and want to help.
Ask for Help.
Tell people that you don't hear well. Ask for their help because ... "what you say is important to me".
Be specific when telling someone how they can help you better understand. Here are some examples:
Look at Both Sides.
See the Tips for Hearing People at the right to get other good ideas.
Pick your best spot.
Choose a position that's quiet, and has good lighting. If you hear better in your left ear, consider that when choosing your position. Arrive at meetings early and sit where you can hear (and see) best.
Think ahead and plan for what is likely to follow. For example, you should certainly expect "Do you want fries with that?" when you order anything at a fast food restaurant ... even french fries. So, be ready for it. It's easier to hear, when you expect it.
Prevent Difficult Situations, Before They Happen.
If you are thinking ahead, you can prevent problems. For example, continuing with our fast food example: plan your order so that all the questions are answered. "I'll have a double cheeseburger, medium fries and a small coffee, cream and sugar ... to go" . Notice how this resolves most of the problem areas. There is no need for them to even ask "Do you want fries with that?". If you are following the "anticipate" rule, above, you will hear them when they ask anyway. Try not to laugh.
Concentrate on the speaker ... Even people with normal hearing use visual cues of facial expressions, body language and lip movement to help them understand better. As a hard of hearing person, you must learn to use these as effectively as possible.
Take the Pressure Off.
The person you are speaking with may be apprehensive, because they don't know how to help. Let them know that your hearing loss is YOUR problem ... not THEIRS. Notice that most of the above examples are phrased to do just that ... people will want to help if they don't feel threatened and if they know how to help. If people are given the impression that they are being attacked because they aren't helping correctly, then they might become defensive.
Show Your Appreciation.
When someone goes out of their way to help you, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate their help.
And, the NUMBER ONE communications tip for hard of hearing people is: Join SHHH and learn to be the best hard of hearing person you can be. People will respect you for recognizing your own hearing loss and attempting to do something about it.
Get Their Attention.
Make sure the Hard of Hearing Person knows you are talking to them. Tap them on the shoulder; wave your hand ; or say their name until you have their attention ... before starting the conversation.
Make the Subject Clear.
Establish the subject at the start of the conversation and whenever you change subjects.
Raising your voice doesn't usually help ... it's the consonants that most Hard of Hearing people miss, and shouting only makes the vowels louder.
Don't exaggerate your Lip Movements:
Speech reading is difficult; only about 30 percent of the sounds are clearly recognizable. Exaggerating your lip movements just interferes with speech reading.
Use Appropriate Gestures.
There are lots of appropriate gestures that will help anyone you are talking with better understand you. Your head motion can clearly indicate "Yes" or "No" . Shrugged shoulders indicate uncertainty, a pointing finger calls attention to something. All these are examples of gestures that help convey meaning.
Use Appropriate Facial Expressions.
A smile, frown, raised eyebrow, or a furrowed brow all convey meaning that can help a Hard of Hearing person to understand what you are saying.
Cut Out Background Noises.
Turn off the television or radio if one is playing. Turn off fans or air conditioners if they are interfering. Hard of Hearing people are usually not able to filter those sounds out to hear your words clearly.
Face the Person You are Talking With.
Even people with normal hearing use speechreading to fill in what they don't hear. Hard of Hearing People rely on it; the must have a clear view of your face and lips ... trim your mustache ... spit out your gum ... keep your hands away from your mouth.
Don't just repeat when someone didn't understand ... rephrase in simpler words.
Ask for Confirmation.
Hard of Hearing people rely a great deal on context ... sometimes they may not understand exactly what is said, but will not interrupt the conversation ... hoping that what you say next will clarify what they missed. If what you said is important, ask for confirmation ... not just a nod, but enough of a playback to assure that your message was understood.
Don't Say: "He/she can hear when they want to.".
That's usually not true and it can easily anger someone who is struggling to hear as well as they can.
Don't Talk from the "Other Room".
People with hearing loss, don't just not hear loud enough, they usually have difficulty with directionality. Even if they can hear you from the other room, they may not know where you are. If in a typical exchange a hard of hearing person calls out: "Where are you?" ... and you answer from some other room: "I'm in here", then they probably won't hear what you said, and it wouldn't help if they did.
Don't Assume All Confusion is Due to Their Hearing Loss
Sometimes communication problems may be due to something else besides their hearing loss. Maybe you asked a question or said something that would not have been clear even to someone who heard it. If someone with a hearing loss looks at you quizzically, just remember: It might be because you weren't clear, and not because they didn't hear you.
And, the NUMBER ONE communications tip for hearing people who want to communicate with hard of hearing people: Join SHHH and learn about hearing loss. Encourage the hard of hearing person to join SHHH and become the best hard of hearing person they can be. Let them know that people will respect them for recognizing your own hearing loss and attempting to do something about it.