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Communication: A Two-Way Street

Two Way Street
Communication plays a large role in all of our activities and interactions with other people. When a person has hearing loss, effective communication becomes more difficult and frustrations can arise. Wearing hearing aids typically improve communication significantly. However, hearing aids do not correct hearing loss and communication difficulties, especially in complex environments with background noise, echo, etc. may still be present.
It is important for a person with hearing loss to learn to be an advocate for effective communication; and it is also important for his/her communication partner to learn strategies to support effective communication. Below are some recommendations and tips for people who are communicating with someone who has hearing loss.
  • Face your communication partner.
    • Visual cues from your mouth and face help to make sense of the words or parts of words that your communication partner did not hear.

    • Using mouth visual cues and facial expressions has been shown to improve speech understanding up to 20%.

  • Do not cover your mouth.
    • Covering your mouth with a newspaper, your hands, etc. will eliminate necessary visual cues.

  • Make sure you are in good lighting.
    • Try not to sit in front of a window; it makes it more difficult to see visual cues from your mouth and face.

  • Speak clearly and more slowly.
    • Speak a little slower, but keep your natural pace and rhythm. People with hearing loss process speech and sound information at a different rate than someone who has normal hearing.

  • Do not shout.
    • Shouting distorts your voice and can make it more difficult to understand.

  • Rephrase rather than repeat.
    • Some words are easier to understand than others. Rewording a sentence is often more helpful than repeating it.

  • Sit or stand between 3 to 6 feet away.
    • Shortening the distance between you and your communication partner will improve the volume of your voice and will be optimal for visual cues.

  • Move away from backgroud noise.
    • Music, television, running water, air conditioners, etc. make it more difficult for a person with hearing loss to hear and understand conversation.

    • Select a conversation location that has less background noise. For example, go to a restaurant during non-peak hours, ask to be seated away from the waiting area, kitchen, or bar.

  • Speak one at a time.

    • When multiple people are talking, it makes it more challening for someone with hearing loss to focus on one specifc voice.

  • Give information about the conversation topic.
    • Knowing the conversation topic will narrow down vocabulary and will help your communication better fill in information when he/she did not hear the word or part of the word.