Six Steps Those With Hearing Loss Can Take to Communicate Better

Those of us with hearing loss must sometimes rely on those with normal hearing to help us have better conversations and more successful interactions with the hearing world. See my post on this topic here. But we must also take responsibility for stacking the deck in our own favor. By following some simple rules of thumb, we can put ourselves in a better position to hear and communicate as best as is possible. Here are my tips. Please share yours in the comments.


1.  Be assertive and inform others: Don’t be shy about disclosing your hearing loss. If someone does not know you have a hearing loss, there is very little chance he will think to speak extra clearly and to face you and not cover his mouth while he speaks. I recently attended a retreat where we all had to introduce ourselves to the group the first day. I made a point to disclose my hearing loss at that time and it worked wonders. Not only were people considerate when speaking with me, nobody got upset when I sat right by the speaker in each of the sessions.

2.  Put others at ease: If you seem comfortable with your hearing loss, others will be as well. Let people know that they can ask you about it. I often joke to people saying, “If you say something to me and I don’t answer, or if I look at you like you have two heads, please don’t think I am rude, it is probably because I didn’t hear you.” I find this makes people more forgiving of a social faux pas or two, and more willing to try again to engage you in conversation.

3.  Stay informed: Since context is so important in following conversations, try to stay abreast of current news and social happenings. It is easier to understand a new name (of a country or a celebrity) if you have seen it written about recently.

4.  Maintain good energy: This may be easier said than done, but because hearing takes extraordinary concentration for those with hearing loss, it is important to approach communication as well rested and alert as possible. Eat healthy food, try to exercise regularly, and be sure to get enough sleep. Also, don’t be afraid to take breaks from communication if your energy is lagging.

5.  Learn to ask questions in a balanced way: This one is particularly hard for me, because I like to know everything that is going on, so sometimes, I drive people crazy with questions to clarify what they said or to repeat something. I am working to get comfortable that in certain situations, I will only be able to “sufficiently” follow the conversation, rather than “fully” follow every detail. This does not apply at the doctor, or in another situation where full knowledge is imperative, but in social situations, not following every detail is probably ok some of the time. When I can scale back my clarification questions, we all enjoy the interaction more.

6.  Roll with the punches: I can be sensitive at times that I am missing things, so I need to remind myself to be grateful for what I can hear. I may not catch every detail, but I can still enjoy being with others. Maintaining a sense of humor about the inevitable miscommunications is also key to more enjoyable communications.

Readers, what tips do you have for communication success?

Note:  Thank you, Greg F. for inspiring these ideas. Greg is a member of Hearing Health Foundation‘s Junior Board and is working on a mobile phone app to help those of us with hearing loss find quiet spots in NYC.  

8 thoughts on “Six Steps Those With Hearing Loss Can Take to Communicate Better

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for your comment.

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