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Communication Tips

9 Do’s & Don’ts When Talking to a Person with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is invisible. When people aren’t aware of your hearing loss, they may make assumptions and be less willing to make accommodations. Even so, Hearing Health Foundation supporter John Cech has found that even when someone is aware of his hearing loss, they can still become impatient and frustrated trying to communicate.

Read John’s tips below, which originally appeared in Hearing Health magazine’s Spring 2016 issue. Have tips you want to share? Email us at info@hhf.org!

Do Face me and make eye contact. Reading your lips helps me fill in missing pieces of conversations.

Don’t Mumble or talk softly, especially in a noisy environment. I can hear you talking, but the background noise makes deciphering what you are saying very difficult.

Do Schedule meetings with fewer people in smaller, quieter quarters with good lighting.

Don’t Put me in a position that will make hearing difficult, like conference calls or group meetings in large rooms with people spread out.

Do Drop me a text message or email for important information. Take advantage of voice recognition to dictate the message if typing it is too time-consuming.

Don’t Expect me to hear you clearly on a cell phone. The microphones pick up too much ambient sound.

Do Try a different word if I still don’t understand what you are referring to. Or repeat the whole sentence.

Don’t Repeat only the word I say I didn’t catch.

Do Ask me what I didn’t understand, and try saying it another way.

Don’t Say “never mind” or “it isn’t important.” If it was important enough to try to talk to me about something, don’t give up in frustration.

Do Position yourself next to the person I am talking to in order to help restate what they are saying. Stand so that I can see your face so I can speech-read if needed.

Don’t Avoid me or talk behind my back to people, telling them I don’t hear. I do hear. I just don’t understand clearly, and I am aware of being dismissed.

Do Help re-explain what was asked of me if I answer incorrectly.

Don’t Apologize for me to others. I can do that myself.

Do Speak slowly but naturally. No need to shout.

Don’t Look away with a frustrated or disgusted look. My disability is difficult enough for me. I don’t need it to be reinforced by people’s negative reaction to it.

Do Smile. Look at me with understanding, not pity.

Don’t Talk to me in short, single-syllable words, like to a child. Thank you.