Older woman and younger woman sitting on a couch talking

Beyond Shouting: Effective Communication with Someone Hard of Hearing

Many of us know someone whose hearing is not so great—maybe your grandfather or an aging parent. There are things you can do to make communicating with him or her more effective and less frustrating. Here are 12 tips for talking to someone with hearing loss. Follow them and you can avoid a lot of unnecessary shouting.

  1. Talk face-to-face. 
    Everyone can naturally read lips to a degree, and talking face-to-face allows the listener to see your mouth moving. In addition, the sound of your voice is directed toward him or her, making hearing easier.
  2. Don’t try to communicate from another room.
    Even with perfect hearing, it can be difficult to hear someone trying to talk to you from another room. For an individual with hearing loss, it’s nearly impossible. 
  3. Say the person’s name before beginning a conversation.
    People pay attention when they hear their own name. Starting a conversation with the listener’s name gives him or her the chance to focus on a new conversation and not miss the first few words you say
  4. Speak clearly and slowly, but don’t exaggerate mouth movements.
    Don’t mumble and speak at a slightly slower pace (but don’t overdo it). You also want to avoid exaggerating your mouth movements—it can make lip reading more difficult.
  5. Talk in a place with good lighting.
    Just like talking face-to-face, good lighting is important so the listener can see your mouth movements to help interpret what you’re saying.
  6. Talk someplace with minimal background noise.
    Background noise is one of the worst offenders when it comes to hearing speech. A busy restaurant can make conversation difficult for people with normal hearing, much less someone with hearing loss.
  7. Keep your hands away from your face.
    Keep your hands away from your mouth and face while you speak, because seeing the movements of your mouth and reading your expression is important to helping the listener understand what you’re saying.
  8. Avoid abrupt changes of topic.
    Suddenly changing the topic can throw the listener off, making it more difficult to follow the conversation. Make it clear when you are switching topics so the listener can focus on the new information
  9. Pay attention to the listener’s expressions and body language.
    Watch for expressions of confusion or signs the listener is struggling to understand. It’s possible he or she isn’t understanding you but doesn’t want to say so. 
  10. Rephrase if the listener doesn’t understand.
    Don’t try to repeat the same words over and over again if the listener isn’t understanding you. Rephrase what you have to say, and maybe the words will be clearer.
  11. Have him or her repeat specific information back to you.
    We’ve all had conversations with someone hard of hearing in which the listener just nods his or her head as if understanding but really doesn’t have a clue what you said. If you’re communicating something you need to make sure is heard, have the listener repeat specific information back to you. 
  12. Write down important information.
    If you must communicate vital information such as directions or medical information, write it down—a good plan regardless of how well the listener can hear.