Communication Tips for People with Hearing Loss

June 19th, 2014 | by Karthu Sivasankaran | Hearing Loss
Communication Tips for People with Hearing Loss

By Karthu Sivasankaran, M.Sc., Reg. CASLPO

Communication is the most important of all life skills, this is fundamental to build personal and professional relationships. Hearing is probably our most complex sensory process. When one has hearing loss, the quality of communication can be impaired leading to frustration, depression and eventually leading to isolation.

The most common question my patients ask is “Will hearing aids restore my hearing back to normal?” Hearing aids will substantially improve your quality of life by improving your listening and hearing ability, but they will not cure the loss.

It is important for you and your family to understand your specific hearing loss. Discussing your hearing loss with your hearing healthcare provider will help you understand why you felt people were mumbling, why female voices were difficult to hear and also it helps your family understand what you are going through.

Audiologists can play a recording that simulates your hearing loss so that your family understands your hearing loss better.

Effective communication is a joint responsibility of both the hearing person (speaker) and the person with hearing loss (listener). Even with hearing aids it is crucial for you to use proper communication strategies to enhance the performance of your hearing aid. Communication strategies have to be used by both the listener and speaker.

They are as follows:

Listener with Hearing Loss Speaker
Face the Listener Directly
  • Face the speaker directly to enhance the performance of the directional microphones in the hearing aid. This also provides you with the visual cues important for speech reading, (speech reading is using what you see on the speaker’s lips, as well as, facial expressions and gestures to understand conversation) which is key in an effective communication.
  • Avoid talking from another room or even talking behind the person’s back.
  • Set proper lighting on the speaker’s mouth. The light illuminates your mouth as you speak. This helps with speech reading.
  • Speak by enunciating each word clearly with occasional pauses, so the listener can better follow the conversation.
  • Rephrase the sentence or use different vocabulary instead of repeating the same thing.
  • Avoid: visual distractions, low lighting, and glare on the speaker’s face, chewing gum or exaggerated lip movements.
Group Conversation or Lecture
  • Seat the speaker close to your better ear.
  • Ask your hearing healthcare provider to add a specific hearing aid program to use in a group, which zooms in to the direction of the speaker.
  • Find better seating in the front of a lecture hall or church with an unobstructed line of vision for better speech reading cues.
  • If the lecture hall/church/movie theatre has this symbol, switch the hearing aid to T-Coil mode, this will enhance direct transmission of speech into the hearing aid.
  • Try speaking to the person’s better ear or the ear with a hearing aid to enhance better conversation in a group.
  • In a group conversation try getting the attention of the listener with hearing loss so that they can concentrate on the conversation.
  • Inform them about the topic of discussion and also if there is any change in the subject.
  • Avoid: Multiple people talking at once in a group, talking to the person’s poorer ear, talking when the listener is not looking at you.

Noisy Environment

  • Position yourself with your back against a wall so that you can reduce the noise coming from behind.
  • Talk to your hearing healthcare provider about adding a noise reduction hearing aid program, which will enhance speech conversation in noise.
  • If you are going to a restaurant with a smaller group, ask for a booth, as it provides a more closed, noise controlled environment.
  • Plan to dine outside of restaurant peak hours to avoid noisy environments.
  • Know your menu before dining to familiarize yourself with the menu vocabulary before ordering.
  • In a lecture, provide the listener with written materials; this will help them follow the lecture more effortlessly.
  • If the hearing impaired person uses a remote microphone or FM System, feel free to clip or place the microphone close to you. This will help the signal to be transmitted to the hearing aid.
  • Switch places with the person with hearing loss to ensure better lighting and also better sound direction.
  • Volunteer to repeat the specials or other information as necessary.
  • Print the directions instead of using a navigation system like GPS, because the volume levels are not sufficient for some hearing aid users.
  • Ask your hearing healthcare professional to add a specific hearing aid program for your car or use an assistive listening device (remote microphone or FM System) to hear well.
  • Digital hearing aids come with Bluetooth technology, which will make hearing on the phone easier.
  • Turn off the radio or close the window while talking.
  • Use an assistive listening device to help the person with hearing loss hear well.
  • Let your passengers know about your hearing difficulty before the trip begins.
Telephone, Television or Radio
  • A Closed Captioning option can be used to show the words on your television.
  • Assistive listening devices (like those from Sennheiser) can be used to better hear the television.
  • Hearing aids come with Bluetooth devices, which can be connected to televisions, radios and cell phones. These devices direct sound to your hearing aid. This also enhances sound quality by eliminating background noise.
  • Increasing the volume will only distort the sound for the individual with hearing loss. Talk at a normal pace by clearly enunciating words to help the listener follow the conversation on the phone.

Karthu Sivasankaran is an Audiologist registered with CASLPO and she sees patients at our Hearing Solutions in the Cloverdale Mall.

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