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How to best communicate with someone with hearing loss

Communication tips for people with hearing loss

Communication is a necessary part of our everyday lives. Yet, there are many different ways of communicating with each other. For people with hearing loss, some communication methods are more accessible than others.

Whether it’s face-to-face communication, talking on the phone, texting, emailing or instant messaging, communication looks different to people with hearing loss.

In this article, I aim to help you understand some communication challenges for the deaf and hard of hearing. I’ll also provide tips for how to communicate with someone who has hearing loss.

Understanding Communication Challenges

For people with hearing loss, communication can easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted. These communication challenges can occur in a variety of settings, including in-person and over the phone. Whether it’s the sound acoustics in a room, language barriers, misunderstood facial expressions and or lip-reading challenges, it’s often difficult for someone with hearing loss to understand everything.

In my personal experience, talking on the phone often poses a barrier for me. That’s why I prefer written communication such as email or texting. When something is in writing, I’m not missing words or sounds, and although some things are easier to be dealt with verbally (which I do as needed); written communication is smoother.

However, many of my friends and colleagues don’t always understand why I prefer to communicate in writing. Many pass it up as me being weird, anti-social, or socially awkward. The truth is, however, that it’s just a much more feasible mode of communication for myself, as well as many other people with hearing loss.

Understanding communication challenges among the deaf and hard of hearing allows the hearing world to be more understanding and accessible.

Read more: Tips for communicating with the deaf community while wearing face masks 

Talking on the phone with hearing loss

Over the phone, certain sounds can be unclear or muffled. Although this has improved greatly with captioned phones and Bluetooth capabilities, it still can remain a challenge and pose frustrations for the following reasons:

  • Processing Delays. When sound or voice is being transmitted through technology such as the phone, there is a delay in general. For individuals with hearing loss, these delays can be even more prominent. If the individual has hearing aids, the sound would then not only have to go through the phone first but then be processed into the hearing aids. For someone with hearing loss who may not have hearing aids, the delay, the person may have to take a few seconds to process what was just said to make sure they heard it correctly.
  • Lipreading and Facial Cues. Lipreading is not possible over the phone. When talking about the phone specifically, you can’t see the person’s face or expression which is something that many with hearing loss heavily rely on to communicate.
  • Captioning isn’t Always Accurate. Captioned phones, such as CaptionCall or Phonak’s My Call to Text App, are incredible advances in making the phone a bit more accessible for those with hearing loss. However, it’s impossible for captions and transcriptions to be accurate 100% of the times.
  • ·Bluetooth is Great, but… Hearing aids and hearing assistive devices that have Bluetooth capabilities to link with cell phones are another amazing invention in technology; and this is actually something I rely on every day. I love that the sound goes straight to my hearing aids; it makes everything so much clearer. However, while it makes things clear and easier to actually hear, the audio can still be delayed and connectivity issues can occur.

What to remember when communicating with someone with hearing loss

  • Let people know or remind them you have hearing loss. Sometimes people may not even know you have hearing loss. If they do, they may forget since many of us live in a predominantly hearing world. However, sometimes reminding people when they call you or ask to speak on the phone can be helpful.
  •  Explain why written communication is easier for you. Sometimes simply telling someone you have hearing loss still doesn’t always help them understand fully. Sometimes it takes explaining how exactly certain types of communication are better for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for repetition. If you do have to talk on the phone, it’s more than okay to ask for repetition or clarification.

Read more: Learning to overcome poor communication habits caused by my hearing loss 

The best way to communicate with someone with hearing loss

Everyone with hearing loss has different communication preferences that work for them. What works best for someone might not work best for another with hearing loss. Even though writing, text, or email is better for me than the phone, someone else with hearing loss might actually prefer the phone, or using even sign language.

Read more: How to learn sign language

Taking the time to understand how someone with hearing loss prefers to communicate can be immensely helpful for both you and the person with hearing loss. It can lead to more effective and smoother conversations and improve your relationship. Try a variety to methods, and see what way works best for you.

Danielle Guth
Author Details
Hi, my name is Danielle! I’m an undergraduate psychology student at Penn State University with an immense passion for writing and helping and inspiring others in any way I can. I am an anti-bullying and mental health advocate, blogger, and public speaker through my personal blog and social media campaign, “Compassionately Inspired”. I was born with a severe conductive hearing loss and hope to inspire others both in the hard of hearing and deaf community as well as the hearing community. “Everybody has a story”; that’s my motto and I hope my stories inspire you in one way or another.
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Danielle Guth
Hi, my name is Danielle! I’m an undergraduate psychology student at Penn State University with an immense passion for writing and helping and inspiring others in any way I can. I am an anti-bullying and mental health advocate, blogger, and public speaker through my personal blog and social media campaign, “Compassionately Inspired”. I was born with a severe conductive hearing loss and hope to inspire others both in the hard of hearing and deaf community as well as the hearing community. “Everybody has a story”; that’s my motto and I hope my stories inspire you in one way or another.