Improving Communication

Improve your communication in a few simple steps

Hearing aids alone may not allow a person with hearing loss to communicate successfully in all listening situations. As a family member or friend of a person with hearing loss, you can help improve communication by following a few simple suggestions. Remember, communication involves at least two individuals: a talker who sends the message and a listener who receives the message.

  • Gain attention:  Gain the listener’s attention before you begin talking, for example, by saying his or her name. If the person with hearing loss hears better from one ear, move to that side of the person. If necessary, touch the listener’s hand, arm, or shoulder lightly. This simple gesture will prepare the listener to listen and allow him or her to hear the first part of the conversation.
  • Maintain eye contact:  Face the person with hearing loss. Make eye contact. Your facial expressions and body language add vital information to the communication. For example, you can “see” a person’s anger, frustration, and excitement by watching the expression on his or her face.
  • Keep hands away from face:  When talking, try to keep your hands away from your face. If you are a smoker, hold the cigarette in your hands while talking. You will produce clearer speech and allow the listener to make use of visual cues.
  • Avoid covering or changing the shape of your lips and mouth:  Lip-reading helps improve recognition of some sounds and speech that are more difficult and especially in difficult listening situations. To help with lip-reading, do not overdo or create odd lip shapes when applying lipstick, do not talk with food in your mouth and do not chew gum. Keep in mind that heavy beards and moustaches can also hide your mouth.
  • Speak naturally:  Speak distinctly, but without exaggeration. You do not need to shout. Shouting actually distorts the words. Try not to mumble, as this is very hard to understand, even for people with normal hearing. Speak at a normal rate, not too fast or too slow. Use pauses rather than slow speech to give the person time to process speech.
  • Rephrase rather than repeat:  If the listener has difficulty understanding something you said, find a different way of saying it. If he or she did not understand the words the first time, it’s likely he or she will not understand them a second time. So, try to rephrase it.
  • Converse away from background noise:  Try to reduce background noises when conversing. Turn off the radio or television. Move to a quiet space away from the noise source. When going to a restaurant or making dinner reservations, ask for a table away from the kitchen, server stations, or large parties.
  • Move to an area with good lighting:  When in a restaurant or other social gathering, sit where there is good lighting so that your face can be more easily seen. Also, avoid strong lighting coming from behind you, such as through a window.