Communication Tips for the Hard-of-Hearing Person and Their Friends and Family Members
Guidelines for Family and Friends
When Communicating with a Hard-of-Hearing Person
If a friend or loved one seems to be having difficulty communicating, encourage him or her to make an appointment with a Doctor of Audiology to have a hearing test. If they wear hearing aids, have those checked too.
- Rephrase when you are not understood.
- Get the person’s attention before you speak.
- Do not put obstacles in front of your face.
- Do not have objects in your mouth such as gum, cigarettes, or food.
- Speak clearly and at a moderate pace.
- Use facial expressions and gestures.
- Give clues when changing the subject.
- Don’t shout.
- Avoid noisy background situations.
- Be patient, positive, and relaxed.
- Talk TO a hard of hearing person, not ABOUT him or her.
- When in doubt, ASK the hard-of-hearing person for suggestions to improve communication.
- Face the person when you speak to them.
Some Thoughts about the Communication Guidelines…
- Most hearing people do not know how to communicate with hard-of-hearing people.
- Feedback from the hard-of-hearing person is essential.
- There is a great difference between intention and behavior.
- Hard-of-hearing people and hearing people have mutual responsibility for improving communication.
- Set realistic expectations.
Guidelines for a Hard-of-Hearing Person
When Communicating with Family and Friends
- If you do not understand what someone says, ask them to rephrase – not repeat what was said.
- Pick the best spot to communicate by avoiding areas that are poorly lit and very noisy.
- Anticipate difficult situations and plan how to minimize problems.
- Tell others how to best talk to you.
- Pay attention to the speaker.
- Look for visual clues of key words, if needed.
- Provide feedback that you understand or fail to understand.
- Do not bluff.
- Arrange for frequent breaks if discussions or meetings are long.
- Ask for written clues of key words, if needed.
- Provide feedback to the speaker by saying how well he or she is doing.
- Try not to interrupt too often.
- Set realistic goals about what you can expect to understand.
Communication Strategies During a Meeting
- Room should be well lit to help those with hearing loss speechread (lip read).
- Avoid backlighting, both from windows and artificial light sources, on the person speaking as it is fatiguing to look at.
- Let the hard of hearing person determine the best seating arrangement in order to see the speaker or sit next to those they have particular difficulty understanding.
- Consider a U-shaped or circular room layout for best possible communication.
- Offer employees frequent breaks to alleviate visual fatigue from speechreading.
- Use assistive listening devices. Table conference microphones transmit voices to a person’s headset or hearing aid. Discourage tapping of fingers or pens on table as the sound interrupts the transmission of the signal.
- Speak clearly and at a moderate rate.
- Do not pace while giving a presentation.
- Speak facing the audience; don’t talk to the blackboard, screen or overhead presentation.
- One person speaks at a time. Keep a speaker’s list whereby the meeting chairperson will note who wishes to speak and then recognize them in order. Or have the speaker raise his or her hand prior to speaking.
- Repeating questions before responding helps clarify questions for the person with hearing loss.
- Point to the person who is speaking, and/or have speakers identify themselves by putting up their hands. This helps the person with hearing loss to follow the flow of conversation. This prevents side chats and people interrupting each other.
- Watch for the hard-of-hearing person’s desire to contribute or make a comment.
- Hand out agendas ahead of time to allow the hard-of-hearing person track the conversations and ask clarifying questions prior to the meeting.
- Incorporate visual aids, demonstrations, flip charts, written agendas and handouts in conversations. Write key words, phrases and changes of topic on the flipcharts or whiteboards.
- Use a large font size for text displayed on overheads or other visual aids. Larger print is easier to see/read and allows participants to quickly resume concentration on the conversation.
- Videos should be captioned or have scripts available.
- Some audio-visual equipment such as overhead and slide projectors are noisy, so turn on and off as required.
- Review critical issues introduced in a meeting to guarantee understanding.
- Provide detailed minutes or notes for later reference.
- The employee may want to meet with presenters after meetings and other presentations to get clarification, particularly if note-taking was the only accommodation provided.
This information was adapted from The Canadian Hearing Society website.