Senior with hearing loss communicating effectively over family mealHave you ever tried to maintain a conversation with someone who won’t make eye contact or face you directly?

It can be uncomfortable and frustrating, even for people who don’t have hearing loss. But if you use a hearing aid, communicating in these situations becomes even tougher.

Hearing loss can affect anyone, at any age

Hearing loss is more common than you might expect. The most recent Canadian Health Measures Survey found that 40 per cent of adults aged 20 to 79 had at least slight hearing loss in one or both ears, as measured by hearing tests.

While it is most prevalent among older Canadians—affecting 78 per cent of adults aged 60 to 79—hearing loss affects younger people too. Forty per cent of adults between the ages of 40 to 59 have at least slight hearing loss, and so do 15 per cent of younger adults aged 20 to 39.

So if you have experienced hearing loss, you are not alone. And if you don’t have hearing loss, it’s best not to assume that the people around you have the same abilities as you.

Here are our top tips to communicate effectively with people with hearing loss. Follow these suggestions and you’re likely to see an improvement in all of your conversations!

1 – Get the other person’s attention before speaking to them.

You don’t need to yell, but it’s a good idea to say the person’s name clearly before you start a conversation. This gives the listener a heads up that you are trying to get their attention, and it increases the odds that they’ll hear you from the beginning of the conversation.

2 – Face the person directly and maintain eye contact.

Even if the person with hearing loss uses a hearing aid or other assistive listening device, they may rely on visual information such as lip reading, facial expressions and body language to get a fuller understanding of what is being said.

To help that happen, make sure you face them directly and maintain eye contact during your conversation, and ensure that there are no people or objects obstructing their view when you are talking.

3 – Speak clearly and slow down.

Your high school English teacher was right when she told you not to mumble or rush when speaking in class. It’s good advice for all situations, but especially if you are speaking to someone with hearing loss.

Speak clearly and slowly, enunciating to ensure that the listener doesn’t miss any words. But do keep it natural. Shouting, over enunciating or exaggerating mouth movements can be off-putting to the person you’re trying to communicate with.

4 – Keep your hands away from your face while speaking.

Eating, chewing, smoking or placing your hand in front of your mouth when you’re speaking can make it more challenging for a person with hearing loss to understand you.

5 – Limit background noise.

If you’re hosting a gathering at home and have guests with hearing loss, keep in mind that background noise will make it tougher for them to hear what others are saying.

You can minimize noise by turning off the TV, closing the curtains to improve sound damping and holding off on clearing the dishes until everyone has left the table. If you enjoy having background music on when you’re hosting people, keep it at a level that doesn’t interfere with conversation.

6 – Don’t talk from another room.

Sometimes we start a conversation in one room, like a boardroom at work, and the conversation spills into a hallway as people leave the meeting.

It happens, and it might be okay if no one in the meeting has hearing loss, but keep in mind that you may have co-workers with undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss who are being left out of the conversation when it turns into a ‘walk and talk’.

Next steps

 If you found these tips useful and relevant to your home or work life, share them with friends, family and co-workers.

If this list has you wondering whether you may have hearing loss, your first step should be to schedule a hearing evaluation with an audiologist.

Capital City Audiology has been providing innovative audiology solutions to patients in the Edmonton area for more than 15 years. Schedule an appointment, call 587-462-1000 for our North location or 587-557-1000 for our South location, or email info@capitalcityhearing.ca.