Speaking clearly to someone with hearing loss
When a person speaks, clues are gained not only from what is heard but also from what is seen. These clues complement and supplement each other, helping us to follow a conversation.
For people with hearing loss the visual clues of speech become very important. Simple actions on your part, as the hearing person, may determine the ease with which these visual clues can be followed.
Communicating with people who have hearing loss
Thanks to What You Need To Know
Top tips for good communication
Simple things you can do to enhance communication between you and someone who has a hearing impairment.
- Attract the hearing impaired person’s attention before you start talking to them so that they can catch the beginning of what is said and not just the ending.
- Avoid speaking from another room, or with your head in a cupboard/newspaper/book.
- Keep your face visible and ensure the room is well lit.
- Try to avoid conversation in the kitchen where there are background noises from food mixers, washing machines and dishwashers etc.
- Keep your head fairly still when speaking.
Use expression and gesture
- Use natural hand gestures but do not exaggerate. Unnecessary hand movements can be very distracting.
- Do not shout – speak clearly and not too fast. Shouting and over-mouthing words will alter the lip pattern, and speaking too slowly will destroy the natural rhythm of speech.
- Try to make the subject of the conversation as clear as possible.
- Try to use full sentences rather than just short phrases as they are easier to understand.
- For a hearing impaired person it is important to see the speaker’s eyes to gauge how they are feeling. Therefore, if you are wearing sunglasses, remove these while speaking.
Repeat or rephrase
- Repeat the sentence again if necessary and then perhaps rephrase what you want to say. You may not be aware of this, but some words are difficult to lipread than others. For example, the month of March is easier to lipread than August. In the word March the shapes making ‘M’ and ‘CH’ are visible on the lips, the components in August are made inside the mouth, so there is nothing to see.
- Give the person time to process what you have said – do not walk away until you have some indication that the message has been understood.
- Write down any important facts.
- Above all, be patient.
On the phone
When you’re calling someone with hearing loss, using a good phone technique will help them hear as much as possible. Make sure you speak directly into the phone’s mouthpiece (but don’t hold it too close), and remove as much background noise as you can.
Action guide for individuals and families
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the USA has produced a short guide with tips on improving interpersonal communication with someone who has a hearing loss as well as how to take care of your own hearing health.
To enlarge and read the document below, please click on ‘open’ (on the bottom right hand side), then use the arrows to page through it.
Pause for thought
Hearing loss can happen to anyone and is very common in people over the age of sixty. We may eventually welcome you to our hard of hearing club. It is a very large one!
Hearing loss is the second largest disability and an invisible one. Not only are there a lot of deaf and hard of hearing people about, but you cannot tell who they are.
Someone with a hearing loss is not ignoring you and is not stupid. Their ears do not work but the rest of them – politeness, intelligence and so forth – is fine. Hearing loss is not something to joke about, to laugh at, to get irritated by, to use as an insult, or to feel sorry for.
What someone with hearing loss needs is courtesy, consideration and communication. Treat someone with a hearing loss as you yourself like to be treated.