Despite how simple it seems, good communication takes work. This is most apparent for people living with hearing loss, their family and friends and others who have difficulty communicating for other reasons. Successful communication involves all of these things at various times and in various combinations: hearing, processing, understanding, interpreting facial features and gestures and speaking.

For someone with hearing loss and his or her conversational partner, there is often a breakdown between hearing and processing that can affect subsequent understanding of the message, the response and, ultimately, the conversation as a whole. Though this can at times be uncomfortable and even frustrating, here are some communication repair strategies that both listener and speaker can use to get the conversation back on track, despite hearing loss:

Communication repair strategies for someone with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss, you can engage these repair strategies. Ask the speaker to:

Face you
Let the other person know that sometimes you depend on speechreading – we all do, in fact, at different times – to assist your hearing. In case of communication mishaps due to being unable to see your conversation partner’s mouth, gently remind him or her to keep his or her mouth uncovered and to face you when speaking. Additionally, the person can get your attention first, and avoid speaking from another room. If you’re having trouble due to lighting, suggest that you move to another environment.

Rephrase
Some words, due to pitch or specific sounds, are more difficult to understand than others. If you’re having a hard time, ask your communication partner to rephrase what he or she has said.

Spell or write words
Some words are vital in understanding the meaning of a topic of conversation, so they cannot be rephrased. In this instance, ask the speaker to spell or – even better – write the keyword or message down.

Provide keywords when the topic has changed
If you know what a conversation is about from the start, it’s much easier to infer what is being said or asked from the context. If the topic of conversation has changed, ask your communication partner to provide the new topic to you.

Aside from asking the speaker for assistance in these ways, you can also:

  • Check and confirm what you heard. Say, “I think you said ___. Is that right?”
  • Have confidence in your abilities and guess. There’s a chance you are correct!
  • Anticipate by preparing. For example, before an event, learn the names of the people who will be there so you can rely partially on your memory.
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