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Communication Strategies for the Hearing Impaired Listener

Reduce noise

  • Try to eliminate any noise that could interfere with speech. For instance, turn off or mute the TV when you are listening to someone talk. Walk away from the noise or position yourself away from the noise. 
  • If your hearing aid has directional microphones, it will reduce some of the noise behind you.

Get a good visual

  • We rely on both our hearing and vision to fully understand speech. This is why it can be hard to understand speech over the phone or when watching a movie since the visual input from the speaker is often eliminated.
  • Make sure the speaker is well lit and within a reasonable distance from you. Effective communication is nearly impossible when the speaker and the listener are in different rooms.

Dining out

  • Eating in restaurants can be a difficult task for many hearing impaired listeners. If your hearing aid has directional microphones, as most new digital hearing aids do, sit with the majority of the noise behind you. Your hearing aid will focus on the signal in front of you and try to reduce some of the noise behind you. Some users make the mistake of sitting with their back to a wall while facing the noise source. This will not let the hearing aid do its job appropriately.
  • Do not be afraid to tell the waiter or waitress about your hearing loss. If you cannot understand him/her, it is okay to ask for a written menu of specials. If he/she is aware of your hearing loss, he/she may also be more willing to seat you in a quieter section of the restaurant.
  • Timing can be a crucial factor. Eating dinner only thirty minutes earlier may help you beat the crowds and enjoy communicating in a much quieter environment.

Don’t be afraid to ask the speaker to repeat.

  • It is okay to ask the speaker to repeat him or herself. Ask specific questions, such as “What time did you just say dinner is?” Asking a general “What?” will give you a longer and possibly more confusing response.
  • If the speaker is someone you communicate with regularly, it may be helpful to coordinate certain signals that indicate a need to repeat or slow down. Arranging these signals ahead of time may make asking for repeated information less interfering to the conversation.
  • You can always ask another listener for a repeat of what is said if the speaker cannot be interrupted.

Explain your hearing loss

  • Discussing your hearing loss with the speaker may give him or her a clue to use more intelligible speech. Telling the speaker, “I have a hearing loss and need just a little clearer speech,” can make the speaker more open to suggestions later on in the conversation. Some suggestions could be, “Can you please slow down?” or “Can you repeat the last sentence?”
  • If simply asked “What?” the speaker may repeat what was said louder, but not clearer. It is more effective to tell the speaker to repeat clearer and slower or to rephrase what was said.

Know your surroundings

  • Planning out your listening environments can be helpful. For example, picking a table seat at a well lit and carpeted restaurant can be a better listening choice than sitting down at a dim bar seat. 
  • The same conditions apply for any listening situation. Look for environments with carpet, drapes, and other fabrics that will absorb sound to make the setting less reverberant.

Know your limitations

  • Hearing aids do not restore hearing to normal. You will still have trouble hearing in noise when compared to listening in quiet. Even the best hearing aid will leave its user with some difficulties in noise. 
  • Having appropriate expectations can limit frustration and increase active listening by you, the hearing aid user.

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