COMMUNICATING with Hard of Hearing People

 by Laine Waggoner, MA, MS

First get the listenerís attention:      

  • Face the listener-  6 feet or less and use lots of eye contact.
  • Seek a quiet space with few visual distractions.
  • Make sure the light is on your face (no backlighting).
  • Be certain they can see and hear you.  
  • Make sure your face and lips are fully visible.
  • State the topic at the outset and give clues when the subject changes
  • Use visual aids as much as possible.
  • Ask what else you can do to communicate more effectively.

 Take care with your speech: .

  • Talk TO hard of hearing people, not ABOUT them.
  • Donít shout, but speak clearly at a moderate pace.
  • Communicate clearly and concisely.           
  • Avoid long and complicated sentences.
  • Use facial expressions and hand gestures to convey meaning.
  • Avoid vocal monotony: project enthusiasm.
  • Be alert to signs of fatigue or distraction.
  • Never speak with something in or covering your mouth.
  • Ask (tactfully) for feedback to be sure you are understood.
  • Repeat or rephrase when you are not understood.
  • Use amplification whenever possible.

Be patient and understanding:

  • Develop understanding and empathy by encouraging the hard of hearing to talk about their anxieties.
  • Be actively involved with them emotionally. Facilitate their growth by striving to understand their reality. Convey hope and faith about their ability to learn new behaviors and thought patterns.
  • Be in touch on all levels, listening and watching for the emotional content of what is both said and unsaid.

 Why communication can break down:

        Hearing loss is usually a problem with word discrimination.  People who do not hear well may be aware that they do not understand you. Then, it is easy for them to ask for repetition or rephrasing.   But, more frustrating is when they unknowingly miss sounds or words, so the message received is wrong or confusing. If the situation is not clarified, an embarrassing or dangerous situation may develop.

Laine Waggoner is the Director of HEAR (Hearing-loss Education And Relationships), which conducts support groups, facilitates seminars, and provides private coaching for individuals who are experiencing hearing loss.  Email:

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