Better Hearing is the Key to Better Communication

An elderly couple out for a walk, one holding a cane.

Communication could be considered one of the most important factors in any successful relationship. Whether it is with your spouse, your children, or your friends, a relationship lacking communication can be detrimental to yourself as well as your loved ones.  A lack of communication can be the result of many factors, often not immediately recognized. Many people with hearing loss, along with their loved ones, face this major problem every single day. Not being able to hear someone can cause embarrassment for those experiencing the loss and annoyance for those trying to speak with them. One party may feel as if the other is not listening, or may grow weary of having to repeat themselves. Meanwhile, the person with the hearing loss is tired of saying, “What?”

Without addressing the severity of the hearing loss, many relationships struggle due to this lack of communication, leaving both parties exasperated. Moreover, many people in this situation have no clue as to why they are so frustrated. Too often, I have seen individuals withdraw from their daily lives and the things they love to do, because they struggle with communication.

 “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” —Tony Robbins

As the quote above states, in order to maintain effective communication, both parties must be willing to understand one another and see where the lack of communication is occurring. If you or a loved one has hearing loss, you probably understand the significance of communication in your relationships. Below are some tips on how to communicate when someone in the relationship is hard of hearing. Remember, hearing loss does not just impact those who have it but also their family members and friends.

Below are some helpful communication tips for both the person with hearing loss, as well as family members and friends of the hearing impaired.

For a person with hearing loss:

  • Watch the person you are speaking with to pick up visual clues.
  • Decrease the background noise as much as possible. Closing doors and windows may help.
  • When you cannot control background noise, position yourself so the noise is behind you and the person you are talking with is in front of you.
  • Ask people to rephrase and slow down rather than repeat; be specific about what you did not hear.
  • If you have hearing aids, use them consistently.
  • Paraphrase and repeat back important information to be sure you understood correctly.
  • Please be patient.

For family members and friends:

  • Speak slowly and clearly without exaggerating speech.
  • Face the person you are talking with so he or she can make use of visual cues.
  • You may speak in a slightly louder voice, but do not shout, as you will distort the way speech sounds and looks.
  • Do not talk with your hands or objects (such as mugs, newspapers, or pencils) in front of your face.
  • Keep all auditory and visual distractions to a minimum.
  • Be sure you are understood by asking the person to repeat back important information.
  • Rephrase rather than repeat when necessary.
  • Get the other person’s attention before speaking. Call their name, tap their shoulder, etc.
  • Please be patient. Communication is a two-way street.