Overcoming communication challenges related to hearing loss: Strategies and tools

Make the gibberish conspicuous

Like the millennial-gem of nostalgia that is Pingu, a speaker without a toolbox of communication skills never graduates from an audience of laughing children. We already subconsciously use strategies to facilitate effective conversations, but for the communities with disabilities that affect this process, a couple more conscious tools may be helpful.

Overcoming communication challenges related to hearing loss

When it comes to communicating with those who have hearing loss, going the extra mile can mean a world of difference from helping provide support to cutting out the frustrations of miscommunications. With this in mind, here are some tips and tricks to help clear up the mumbo-jumbo in the communication lines.

Be direct

Per Queen Bey’s instructions, the best way to get someone’s attention is to say their name – especially when the individual has hearing loss. What matters most is that the speaker is direct when initiating the conversation by gently tapping the listener on the shoulder or saying their name. Adding this step allows the individual to refocus their attention and not miss the first few words in the conversation.

It’s important to carry this directness throughout the interaction by providing pertinent information (like directions, work assignments, or schedules) through writing where applicable. Above all, speaking clearly, naturally and at the appropriate speed (without shouting or exaggerating mouth movements) will ensure direct reception in the conversation.

Face the person, not the music

Ever been at a party where the sensory overload is to the extent that the person you’re talking to talks in all directions but your ear? When communicating with people who are hard of hearing, it’s essential to face the affected individual when speaking to them, without any visual obstructions between them and the speaker’s mouth. Possible obstructions could be your hands, cups, or other objects.

Additionally, activities like chewing, smoking or eating can also hinder the individual’s ability to understand. Some people in the hard of hearing community rely prominently on reading lips, while others can communicate as long as the vocal projection is channelled in their direction. Keeping this in mind, if the individual only experiences hearing loss in one ear – consider standing on the side with better hearing or projecting in that direction.

Set the scene

Every good script needs the setting to match, as do conversations with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In situations when it is appropriate, consider adjusting the lighting and reducing any background noise. While it may seem obvious, it is also imperative that both participants are in the same room, though we’ve all been guilty of forgetting and yelling from the room over. Additionally, positioning the speaker on the same level as the listener (not on stairs or an incline) is always a good idea to ensure optimal lip reading conditions.

Enunciate general etiquette

We’ve all been there – sometimes, when relaxing in a crowd, social mishaps like interrupting or abrupt changes in conversation happen. When communicating with a person who’s hard of hearing, avoiding miscues will make a meaningful difference in having clear interactions. By taking turns speaking, the listener can easily focus on the communicator and avoid becoming overwhelmed by who to look at.

Further, when lip-reading functions like an educated-guessing game, keeping the conversation trajectory predictable is always appreciated. Most importantly, pay attention to the listener – if they look puzzled or seem disconnected from the conversation, consider clarifying any relevant information and ensure all the above conditions have been met to optimize their experience.

Call it a hands-free touch down

Think of these tools as the quarterback in the communication play. By encouraging the speaker to read the defence and helping block interceptions, adding these tools will help alleviate unnecessary pressure in the conversation’s reception.

Above all, incorporating these strategies will help the listener feel more comfortable as a participant at social events by holding a place for them in the interaction. To subscribe to our blog is to care about reinforcing the space people with hearing loss hold in the community – so help us fulfil our role and keep these in the playbook for when necessary.

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