Communication strategies for hearing loss

Communication strategies for hearing loss

By the time many patients come to see me, they’re already frustrated with their hearing loss and struggling to adapt. Studies show hearing loss can take a significant toll on emotional well-being and relationships.

Communication strategies can go a long way toward alleviating some of this stress and helping you hear at your best.

1. Ask people to say your name first.

Even people who have “good” hearing, don’t hear and process everything. You tune out a lot of background noise. If you don’t know someone is speaking to you, your brain doesn’t pay attention.

This can make any hearing loss seem 10X worse. But the name we go by is like a switch that tunes the ears into what’s being said instantly. So ask your friends and family to call your name or title (mom, dad, etc.) and then start talking.

This can be very helpful, even if it’s just the two of you in the room.

2. Face the Person Speaking

When possible, look at the person speaking. Most of us can read lips a little, and it can help you better understand. Plus, facial expressions and body language give you context, allowing your brain to fill in any hearing gaps.

3. Get Rid of Background Noise

This isn’t always possible. But having a TV or music on in the background always will impact communication. Have some “no device time” for important conversions you need to hear and remember.

When out, ask for a table away from large parties or the kitchen so you can hear your dinner partner.

4. Repeat It Back

Sometimes words “sound” alike. Since your brain is always actively trying to make sense of things, it can interpret something wrong. So repeat back important information. Even better, write it down.

As a bonus, this can improve memory.

5. Respect Your Limits

Knowing your limits isn’t throwing in the towel. It acknowledges how and when you hear the best — or don’t. If you’re sick or worn out from a long day’s work, that’s probably not the best time to try to have a conversation.

Kindly ask if you can have a little time to rest before discussing the topic. This can also allow for tempers to cool if it’s a heated topic.

6. Communicate Your Needs

No one can read minds. Tell people you’re “hard of hearing” and remind those close to you as needed.

Be clear about what you need them to do. You can ask them to look at you when they speak. Also, ask that they not eat, chew gum, or smoke when they’re talking so you can see their mouth.

7. Stop Saying, “What?”

Don’t get me wrong. “What” is a great word. But it can become grating if you use it all the time. Strangers may even perceive it as rude. So find some alternatives that match the situation.

  • “Could you say that a little louder?”
  • “I didn’t get that first part.”
  • “Could you repeat that?”

8. Find a Device that Works for You

A professional audiologist, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor, or a hearing aid specialist can help you find products that best fit your needs. Some options to keep in mind:

  • Hearing aids. Hearing aids can make sounds louder and help you more effectively hear sounds your struggle with. They can also connect directly to many devices, so the sound can go straight from the device to you. This can be a huge help with phone communication and video chats.
  • FM systems. This setup works well in a formal setting like a classroom. Sound wirelessly travels from the person speaking to your hearing aid.

9. Bring Loved Ones to Appointments

As your audiologist, with your permission, I can explain things to your loved one and suggest how they can help you hear your best.

10. Get Support

A hearing loss community exists. And these individuals can be a great resource. Many have been living with hearing loss for some time, have great tips, and can even answer your specific questions. I can help you connect with your local community.

On another note, if you or your partner is struggling emotionally with hearing loss, you may benefit from working with a therapist.

11. Get the Treatment You Need

Untreated hearing loss doesn’t just impact relationships. You’re at increased risk of anxiety, depression, accidents, high blood pressure, dementia, and other commonly co-occurring conditions. I encourage you to speak with someone about your situation. You have options. Contact my team to schedule an appointment.