Ear Research Foundation Blog

Hearing impairment and communication

Contributed by Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing
Last updated November 16, 2020

Even without the added issue of hearing loss, conversations require a lot of focus, energy and patience. For people with hearing loss or other hearing impairments, a noisy environment or friends who speak too quickly can make communication extra challenging.

Restaurant background noise is one of the most common challenges when talking to
someone with hearing loss.
Below are some things that you can do to help facilitate communication when someone has hearing loss, whether that person is you—or a loved one, friend, or coworker.

Please note this article is for people who have mild to moderate hearing loss. People who have untreated profound hearing loss, or are Deaf, have different communication methods that will be more effective than the ones discussed below. More on degrees of hearing loss.

How to talk to someone with hearing loss

Some environments are much easier for communication for people who are hearing impaired. Here are some things you can do to ensure the environment is perfect for communication:
  • Make sure the room has enough lighting. People with hearing loss often rely upon lip reading, facial expressions, speech reading, body language and gestures to supplement their remaining hearing and improve communication. 
  • Pick a place that has minimum background noise. Though our ears and brain are able to filter out background noise in most situations, people with hearing loss often have a difficult time hearing over excessive noise. Keep in mind that small rooms with no carpeting or curtains tend to have poor acoustics and can distort voices.
  • Make it easy to see everyone's faces. If you will be in a group setting, choose a location—or if you're at a restaurant, a round table —where the person with hearing loss will have visual access to everyone's faces to facilitate better communication. 

Here are a few examples of using the above tips to pick an appropriate environment for communication:

    • If you're planning a dinner out, pick a restaurant that you know has ample lighting, does not play loud music and has decent acoustics. Choose a restaurant that you have been to before, where you know the noise levels do not get too loud. Another good tactic is to select an off-time: Rather than having dinner at 7 p.m. on Friday or Saturday night—the busiest dinner hours—opt instead for a late lunch or early dinner, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. when restaurants are likely to be the least busy.
    • During a group gathering at your home, if you'd like to have a conversation with a friend or family member with hearing loss, invite him or her to speak in a different, quieter room. Turn off the TV and any other sources of noise.

 “Reprinted with permission. Copyright Healthy Hearing ( www.healthyhearing.com ). Original article: [https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/51744-Communication-strategies-when-talking-to-individuals-with-hearing-loss]

Tags: Communication