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5 Things That Make Communication Challenging With Hearing Loss

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We people with hearing loss can be very fussy. Communication has to be just so, and if we don’t get it the way we want or need it, we can get grumpy. Especially if we’ve explained it a million times to someone before. We do go easier on strangers, but if they are challenged by our requests, our good humor is a time-limited offer.

So let me put it clearly, in everyday language, what good communication looks like for people who have hearing loss.

How the heck am I supposed to hear and understand you, if you do the following?

1. You don’t face me while talking to me. You need to face me and talk, or face away and don’t talk. If we can see each other’s eyeballs, we can chat.

2. You speak way louder than necessary, in the mistaken belief that “louder is better.” Because I need to use hearing aids, you think speaking louder is good, right? Wrong. Here’s the thing – I’m using technology that already bumps up the volume – and too much of a good thing can be painful. And if you’re bellowing at me, your lips are distorted and hard to read. I appreciate your efforts, but if I need you to speak up — in a noisy environment, for example — I’ll let you know.

3. Your words trail off, turning your sentence into a cliffhanger. Am I supposed to guess what was supposed to come next? Sometimes it’s hard enough to get what you say without having to take a stab at what you meant to say, or maybe decided not to say, or even just forgot. For example, when you say something like this: “So, Lulu and I went to see that new art exhibit downtown and we both… you know…” Then, just quiet air. Your voice gets fainter, so I lean in closer and closer …and then the nothingness. You see my problem, right?

4. You talk with your mouth full. Many people with hearing loss are speech readers. If you’re talking, we are watching you, regardless of what else you’re doing with your mouth. In addition to the visual horror of seeing food being chewed, it’s challenging to understand, because words are formed differently when teeth are grinding through meat and tongues are sloshing around the mashed potatoes. Please swallow the food and clean up the leftover bits from your teeth and lips – and then speak. I will do the same.

5. Speaking of lips, you don’t move yours much. I know it’s hard to change how we speak, but could you use your mouth muscles a bit more so I stand a better chance of telling the words apart?

That’s the main stuff. There’s a lot more to good communication, but this is a start. It comes down to just you and me – a person who can hear well and a person who can’t – trying to have good conversations.  I’m interested in what you have to say and I’m doing all I can – being open about my needs and using technology. So if you can work on these few points, we’ll have a much better chat.

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Photo by contributor.

Originally published: December 5, 2017
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