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ODHHS Information

Communication With People With Hearing Impairment
(Source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, ASHA)
This information is provided by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Talking louder to a person with a hearing loss may not increase understanding. In fact, using a loud voice may be annoying to the listener. It involves exaggerated mouth movements, and may result in the loss of some speech information.

Communication involves active participation by both listener and speaker. The following tips to enhance communication are geared for use with people with hearing impairment; however, they may be appropriate in other communication situations as well. A hearing evaluation by an audiologist should be completed whenever hearing loss is suspected The audiologist will discuss communication problems, recommend the use of hearing aids or assistive listening devices, if appropriate, and offer additional information

Make Use Of What Can Be Seen

  • Look at the speaker. Position yourself to get a full view of the face, not just a profile view. A lot of information can be obtained by looking as well as by listening. The sounds most difficult to hear are the easiest to see. Everyone has some ability to speechread (to get information on what is being said by watching a speaker´s lips, facial expressions, gestures, etc.) and will use these skills as needed.
  • Speechreading classes and videotapes may help to further develop those skills you already have.
  • Consider having your eyes examined.
  • Remove obstacles (cigarettes, chewing gum, pipes, and food) when speaking.
  • Realize that beards and mustaches can interfere with the ability to speechread
  • Pay attention to the listener. A puzzled look may indicate misunderstanding.
  • Face the listener. Don´t turn away while speaking.
  • Avoid using distracting gestures. Just as gestures can add to meaning, they can distract when used inappropriately.
  • Get the listener´s attention first by gently touching the shoulder, raising your finger, or some other type of signal.
Ask Questions
  • Don´t bluff and nod as if you understand when you don´t. It is better to as questions than to continue on the wrong path.
  • Tactfully ask the listener to explain what was said or ask leading questions so you know you message got across.
Control The Environment
  • Try to direct the speaker to a quiet area of the room.
  • Avoid noisy backgrounds.
  • Eliminate background noises (television, radio, running water, etc.) whenever possible.
  • Ask about assistive listening devices (personal listening system, loops, etc.) that may be available.
  • Maximize the use of lighting. Have the light behind you, not behind the speaker where it may cast a shadow.
  • Avoid sitting close to walls or other hard surfaces. Sound may bounce off these surfaces.
  • Reduce your distance from the speaker.
  • Improve the acoustics of the room, for example, by installing carpeting.
  • Take turn speaking; avoid interrupting other speakers.
  • Indicate and identify any change in speaker.
  • Don´t call out to the listener from a distance or from another room.
Become Familiar With The Topic
  • Request information (lectures notes, vocabulary, agenda) in advance. it is easier to understand if you are familiar with the speaker and the topic. Try to stay current with news events. Read movie reviews before going to the theater.
  • Explain your needs. What helps you to understand better?
  • Provide written information (work assignments, doctor´s orders, etc.) that can be use for later reference.
  • Ask the listener what types of things make the message easier to understand.
  • Ask for repetitions.
  • Repeat or rephrase what you think you heard. This gives the speaker the opportunity to correct any mistakes. "You said you would return soon. Is that right?"
  • In a group setting, repeat questions or key facts before continuing with the discussion.
  • Rephrase if necessary when repetitions do no clarify.
  • Don´t strain to understand every word that is said. Try to follow the context of the conversation. Many times speech is redundant and predictable. You may be able to guess correctly at what is missing.
  • Slow down but don´t exaggerate. A rapid rate of speech is tiring and may be confusing.
  • Try to maintain a sense of humor. Be prepared to laugh at your mistakes!
  • Don´t shout! Shouting distorts the sound and look of speech, making speechreading more difficult. Speak naturally, clearly and distinctly.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national professional and scientific society that represents 81,427 audiologists; speech-language pathologists; and speech, language and hearing scientists. ASHA´s mission is to promote the interest of its members, to provide them with the highest quality services, and to advocate for people with communication disabilities. ASHA´s Consumer Affairs Division provides an information and referral service on a broad range of speech, language and hearing disabilities for both children and adults.
For additional information on this topic or other speech, language, or hearing disabilities, contact American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 10801 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD,  20852, 1-800-638-8255 or (301) 897-8682 (Voice or TTY).