Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
Strategies to Improve Communication
Let others know that you have some hearing loss and tell them what they can do to improve communication. Here are some tips:
- Make sure you face the person directly and ask them to speak slowly and clearly, enunciating each word.
- Pick up cues from the context of a conversation to identify the meaning. Watch any gestures the person makes; this can also help with interpreting what they’re saying. You might also be able to use lip reading to help you communicate.
- Ask the person to write or type the information. You might carry a pad and pen with you, or even use a touchscreen phone or tablet computer for this purpose. Text messaging and e-mail can be helpful, and enlarged keyboards are available to make typing easier.
Improving communication is particularly important if you are hospitalized. If you use hearing aids, make sure that you have them in the hospital—poor hearing can contribute to delirium.
Communicating with a Hearing-Impaired Person
Even if your hearing is fine, your friend’s or family member’s may not be. Here are some tips for improving communication:
- Ask the person about the best way to communicate with him or her
- Obtain the person’s attention before speaking
- Eliminate background noise and distractions as much as possible
- Make sure your listener can see your lips:
- Speak face-to-face in the same room
- Don’t hide your lips with your hands or other objects
- Have the light shine directly on your face, not behind you
- Speak slowly and clearly, but don’t shout—shouting distorts lip movements, making them harder to read, and can make you sound angry even when you are not
- Speak towards the ear that has better hearing (if the person’s hearing loss is different in each ear)
- Rephrase your comment if the listener doesn’t understand the first time
- Speak in complete sentences—single words are hard to lip-read because the listener often relies on context
- If a reply doesn’t make sense, make sure that the person knows the topic of conversation
- Spell words out, use gestures, or write or type the information
- Have the listener repeat back what he or she heard to avoid misunderstandings
Persons with dementia may remove and throw out the hearing aid. It can be helpful to order a loop attached to the hearing aid case. A piece of fishing line can be attached to the loop and the other end of the line and pinned to the patient’s clothing to catch the aid when the patient removes it. In nursing homes and other long-term care settings, a system for collecting the aids each night and replacing them each morning may reduce the number that are lost.
Updated: November 2016
Posted: March 2012