Whether at a party, in the office, or out and about, it is not unlikely that you will run into an individual that suffers from hearing loss.  According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 15% of adults in the United States suffer from some degree of hearing difficulty. Additionally, two to three of every 1,000 children born in the U.S. suffers from some detectable level of hearing loss.

To help improve your ability to communicate with the numerous individuals suffering from hearing loss, check out the tips I’ve provided below. If you or someone you love has a hearing loss and are searching for an audiologist in the Florida area, please reach out to me for assistance.

 

Draw the Individual’s Attention

An individual with hearing loss needs to know that you are speaking to them.  This will cue them to pay close attention to you and will ensure they don’t miss any of your messages.  While you may think it feels impolite to draw their attention to you, it can be done politely.  First, make sure you are in their field of view. Once you are in their sightline, give them a wave and a smile, or tap them on the shoulder.

 

Look at Them While You Talk

A hard-of-hearing person will be able to follow the conversation and understand what is being said if you make eye contact while you are talking to them.  Avoid exaggerating your facial expressions or lip movements as this could distract from the individual’s ability to follow the conversation.

 

Make Sure to Speak Clearly

An individual with hearing loss may be trying to read lips or may need to put extra effort into understanding the conversation.  This makes it especially important to speak clearly, avoid mumbling, and enunciate your words.  Do not take this as advice to shout or talk slowly, as this can come off condescending and does not treat the person with a hearing loss as an equal.

 

Rephrase in the Face of Confusion

In your conversation, you may reach a stumbling block where the person is struggling to understand a particular word or phrase.  While your instinct may be to continue to repeat the word or phrase, this isn’t likely to increase comprehension.  Certain sounds can be especially difficult to process for people with a hearing loss. Repeating the statement will not solve this issue as the same sounds will still be present. Instead, try to rephrase the statement.  Rephrasing is most likely to help overcome the communication obstacle by eliminating or changing the problematic sound.

 

Pay Attention to Surroundings

External factors that may not seem meaningful to you could significantly influence the ease of the conversation.  Are you somewhere that has loud street noise or music?  Is someone having a loud conversation next to you?  If you can make any adjustments, such as lowering TV volume, take these actions.  If there is a sound issue outside of your control, look to see if there is a quieter location nearby that you can move to.

 

Utilize Written Communication

While verbal communication should be the first option, don’t forget that written communication is available.  If there is an important point that must be communicated and you are struggling to get it across, consider writing.  If a pen and paper aren’t available, consider texting or using your phone screen to display the information. But remember to not always turn to this method of communication, it is better to learn to communicate face-to-face than to dismiss it altogether.

 

Be Patient

If you are under a time constraint or trying to communicate something significant, conveying your points to a person with a hearing loss can seem frustrating.  Keep in mind that it is frustrating for them as well, and this is how they have to approach most of their conversations.  If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a moment for a deep breath.  Consider all the ways a hard-of-hearing individual may have to make accommodations themselves. Interactions that come easy to you can involve a lot of hard work for them. Find a new way to approach the conversation; there is no doubt your efforts will be appreciated.

 

Seek Feedback

Once you have completed the conversation, ask the individual how your communication could have been improved. Ask if there is any way you could have made the conversation more straightforward.  Asking for feedback will provide you with tips from an expert in communicating with individuals with a hearing loss – the individuals themselves.  Don’t be uncomfortable asking for advice; it is almost guaranteed to be a well-received request.

No matter where you or your loved one is on their journey in dealing with hearing loss, I am here to help.  I’m happy to answer any questions you may have regarding hearing issues, including hearing aids and hearing tests.  Contact me now to set up an appointment.

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Dr. Michelle Couture-Souvenir, Au.D

Dr. Michelle Couture-Souvenir, Au.D

Dr. Michelle Couture-Souvenir, Au.D., is Florida’s leading doctor of audiology and has over 25 years of experience in this dynamic industry. Before setting up her own business in Florida & Central America, she served as a pediatric audiologist and rehabilitative services manager at the Miami Children’s Hospital. She has worked with patients of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds during her long and diverse career, and she is still heavily involved in international humanitarian projects, helping hearing-impaired children globally.