Hearing management

24 January 2019

5 tips on better communication for people with hearing loss

Hearing loss can make communication in a social setting difficult. Here are some practical tips to help you cope.

People who suffer from hearing loss can find communicating with other people stressful, frustrating or downright petrifying.

The sad thing is that so many cases of hearing loss go untreated, making communication in a social setting a real challenge. According to the Hearing Loss Association of Sarasota, a whopping 20% of all treatable instances of hearing loss are ignored. This can lead to depression and social anxiety for those who struggle to hear.

But even if you're being treated for progressive hearing loss or using a hearing aid, making conversation in e.g. a noisy environment may remain difficult. The reason for this is because many hearing aids are pre-programmed for specific situations, making it difficult to distinguish between voices in other environments.  

Here are some tips on how to improve communication:

1. Disclose your hearing loss

When people know you struggle to hear, they will understand that you might have difficulty hearing them over the phone or in noisy environments. Tell family and friends what you are experiencing and don’t hesitate to tell people, “Please speak up, I’m struggling to hear you in a crowd.” This will also help to explain behaviour they might not have understood previously, i ignoring someone, not laughing at jokes, avoiding the telephone or not seeming interested in a conversation.

Man laughing with his sons

2. Keep a close distance

Don’t stand too far away from the people you are talking to. It will optimise the sound, and being able to clearly see their facial expressions and lips may help you follow the conversation better.

Two women chatting at a cocktail party

3. Choose your 'good ear'

If you have better hearing in one ear, always turn that side to where the sound is coming from. You also shouldn’t be worried about asking people to switch sides or speak into one ear.

Two women talking during their workout

4. Keep calm

For many people, being out and about in a social setting, especially while adjusting to a new hearing aid, may be daunting. They may worry about what people think or looking ridiculous during a conversation, at a party, or a work meeting. Unfortunately, anxiety can make it much harder to follow conversations. Try strategies to make yourself calmer in these environments – breathe deeply and focus on the person you are talking to. Don’t hesitate to consult a hearing professional on strategies if you struggle to keep up with conversations in your everyday life. 

Happy people during a work meeting

5. Utilise everything at your disposal

Don’t see your hearing loss as a personal “failure”, and don’t pay any attention to the stigmas attached to hearing aids. Make as much of your hearing aid as you can, get to know the different settings, and ask a hearing aid consultant if you are not sure about anything. You can also learn how to lip read as this will help maximise understanding in difficult environments.

female doctor fitting patient with hearing aid

Image credits: iStock 


Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Minette Lister graduated with a Bachelor of Communication Pathology (Audiology) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville in 2015. Thereafter, she completed her compulsory year of community service at Phoenix Assessment and Therapy Centre in Durban. In 2017, Minette started working for Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. She is passionate about working with children and adults to diagnose and manage hearing loss using state of the art technology. Minette offers hearing screening programmes for newborn and high-risk babies, as well as school-aged children, in order to decrease the incidence of late or unidentified hearing loss.

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