The audiologists at Universal Hearing Care in Tarzana, CA, believe that when a loved one has hearing loss, it affects the entire family. Communication is a two-way street – both the listener with hearing loss, and his or her communication partner, can take steps to lessen conversational difficulties.

The Better Hearing Institute has compiled a list of 5 common strategies for both the listener and the communication partner that might significantly reduce misunderstandings:

1. Don’t try to hide your hearing loss

Listener: Acknowledge your hearing difficulties so that speakers are more like to speak clearly when addressing you, and look directly at you when talking. When your conversation partner knows that you have hearing loss, there will be fewer misunderstandings.

Communication Partner: When conversing with a loved one who wears hearing aids, don’t exaggerate your mouth movements or shout. Speak clearly, and pause between phrases to give the listener time to process what you’re saying.

2. Use effective clarification strategies

Listener: Avoid saying “Huh?” or “What did you say?” when you’ve understood at least some of what your loved one said. Instead, try repeating the phrase that you did understand, and admit what needs rephrasing.

Communication Partner: Try rewording – not repeating – when the listener has missed something you’ve said. Use clear, but not exaggerated, speech.

3. Determine your source of difficulty

Listener: Analyze why you are having difficulties with a particular talker. Then, make specific requests. For example, if the speaker has a soft voice, politely say, “speak a little louder, please.”

Communication Partner: The best way to speak clearly with your hearing impaired loved one is to face them and speak a bit slower. Don’t cover your mouth when you’re talking – that prevents your partner from taking advantage of lip and facial cues.

4. Listen with your eyes, not just your ears

Listener: Watch your loved one’s face. Less than 50% of the English language is visible on the speaker’s lips – but, you can still gather plenty of information by picking up visual cues. Use your loved one’s facial expressions to help you understand what is being said.

Communication Partner: Your hearing-impaired listener will benefit tremendously by watching your lips as you speak. Don’t cover your mouth with your hands, a restaurant menu, etc. It’s important to keep the visible features of speech available.

5. Be patient!

Listener: Be patient with yourself, your loved ones, and people you might encounter throughout the day. Keep using the tips provided here and stay positive – even if the going gets tough. Some days will be better than other, but a positive attitude can help you get through any hard times.

Communication Partner: Remind yourself that while it might be difficult for you to converse with your hearing-impaired loved one, the listener faces greater communication challenges. Be patient and appreciate your own healthy hearing abilities.

Universal Hearing Care in Tarzana, CA, serves hearing loss patients in the San Fernando Valley. We provide evaluations and treatments and offer numerous hearing aid styles from leading manufacturers. For more communication tips or to schedule your next appointment, call us at 818.345.3200.


Patricia B. Kricos, Ph.D. - University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida