Conversing with a loved one who has hearing loss can be difficult, but each person deserves the chance to engage in conversation and be involved in the social situations that are important to them.
There are a few simple tips that make it easier for people with hearing loss to understand you.
Minimize background noise
Even the quiet ones! The dishwasher, a loud AC, music, anything you can turn off will make it easier for the person to hear. Background noise can occur at the same frequency as speech sounds, and drown them out.
Make sure they can see you
People with hearing loss often use other cues such as gestures, facial expressions, and lip movements to infer what is being said. Sit somewhere visible to your conversation partner, with bright light, and keep your hands, menus, newspapers, etc away from your face.
Have the person sit with their back to the noise if they wear hearing aids
It’s intuitive to seat a person with hearing loss in a quieter corner, but it’s better to have them sit with their back to the noise. Many hearing aids pick up the noise in front of the person better than the noise behind them, so they will work best if the person faces what they want to hear with their back away from what they don’t.
Don’t talk over each other or interrupt. Even one extra side conversation can make it difficult for people with hearing loss to pick up the conversation they’re trying to engage in.
Pause more often
Add some pauses at natural places in your conversation, which gives the person more time to process what you’re saying and fill in anything they missed.
Use natural volume and speech patterns
Don’t yell or exaggerate your words, which can distort the sounds and shapes your mouth make and make you harder to understand. Use a good volume without shouting, and instead of trying to exaggerate your pronunciation, add some pauses (step 4).
Introduce the topic
If a topic changes, or if they join the conversation after it’s already started, let them know what you’re talking about, so they start the conversation with some information to help them fill in any gaps they may encounter.
Make the effort
Most importantly, don’t settle for anyone just sitting on the sidelines without being able to participate. Take the time and make the effort to include your loved ones in conversation. It is well worth it!
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Written By: Kerry Symes,