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How to talk to a hearing impaired person

“Why did I come into Hearingcare?”

I loved all my Grandparents, and got on particularly well with my ‘Grandpop’ – my Mum’s Dad. He was an ex-miner, but a strict man, who, in my eyes though was a big softie.
When I was about 12, he let me cut the lawns around the house, and I did such a good job, he then gave me pocket money to do them every weekend.
I would go on a Saturday night, watch Match Of The Day with him, stay over and cut the lawns on a Sunday – if it didn’t rain.

It was only then I realised he wore a hearing aid – he didn’t wear it in the day – just to watch the tv. He had a big box under his jumper, and a wire running up to his ear.
It whistled like mad, but he couldn’t hear that himself. I found out years later it was a Body Aid. I then became more aware of the issues he had as he started to wear it more in company. All the family used to keep telling him to “turn it down – it’s whistling again!”. It became a bit of a family joke.

Years later, when I was at College, my Grandpop was admitted to George Elliot Hospital in Nuneaton with waterworks trouble. I used to walk past the hospital on the way to College, so I’d visit almost every day. One day when I went in and sat with him, he started to cry for no apparent reason.

How did this affect him?

Being a proud man, he shook it off for a while, but it soon became apparent that he couldn’t control this emotion. I asked him what the matter was. He asked me to pull the curtain around the bed to give us some privacy.
He burst into tears!
“I’m fed up with this hearing aid! Every time I’m struggling to hear someone, I have to turn it up and then they shout at me and tell me to turn it down!! Then I can’t hear them! My life has been hell for the last 6-7 years – I may just as well not be here!”

I was distraught and cried with him. Unfortunately, although his waterworks problems were cleared up, he contracted MRSA whilst in the hospital, and he passed away without being able to go home!
HE is the reason I came into hearing care. He never complained to the family about his hearing, and none of us realised what was happening to him. He felt daft “because I’m deaf” he said to me! That instilled the desire in me to help improve the quality of people’s hearing if I could. Here I am over a quarter of a century later!
Don’t let this happen in YOUR family

It’s not just frustrating for the person with the hearing loss when they can’t understand what people around them are saying. You get fed up of having to keep repeating yourself, but are YOU doing enough to make the situation easier for the person who can’t hear properly?

After all, they didn’t decide to have a hearing loss – it’s not their fault – so please don’t get angry and annoyed with them.
Situations like that can cause huge issues between family and friends. I’ve seen this so many times in my 26 years in hearing care – and I know my fellow audiologists and hearing aid dispensers have too!

What can YOU do to help?

Successful communication requires the efforts of ALL people involved in a conversation. Even when the person with a hearing loss wears hearing aids and possibly uses active listening strategies, it is crucial that others involved in the conversation consistently use good communication strategies, including the following (the term “listener” refers to the hearing impaired person):

  • Face the listener DIRECTLY, on the same level and in good light whenever possible. Position yourself so that the light is shining on your face, not in the eyes of the listener. There is nothing more difficult than someone who is hard of hearing looking at someone who is talking to them with daylight through a window behind the speaker. We all lip read to a degree – it’s another helpful way of picking up the speech, and also to tell whether the speaker is being witty, serious or sarcastic for example.
  • If you are speaking to someone who is sitting down, make sure that he or she can see you. For example, if you are speaking to someone in a wheelchair,
    get in front of him or her to talk rather than talking while pushing the wheelchair. Get to their level rather than standing over them.
  • Do not talk from another room.
    Not being able to see each other when talking is a common reason people have difficulty understanding what is said – as mentioned in the previous point. If you’re upstairs, and your listener is downstairs, if they’ve lost more than a third of their hearing, they will not hear everything you say – and possibly not ANY of what you say.
  • Say the person’s name before beginning a conversation. This gives the listener a chance to focus their attention and reduces the chance of missing words at the beginning of the conversation.
  • Avoid talking too quickly or using sentences that are too complicated. Slow down a little, pause between sentences or phrases, and wait to make sure you have been understood before going on. If you are speaking with someone who is hard of hearing and they are not wearing hearing aids, you may need to speak up a little louder than normal.
  • Keep your hands away from your face while talking. If you are eating, chewing, smoking, etc. while talking, your speech will be more difficult to understand. Beards and moustaches can also interfere with the ability of the listener to interpret speech.
  • If the listener hears better in one ear than the other, try to make a point of remembering which ear is better so that you will know where to position yourself. If you haven’t got a hearing loss yourself it is too easy for forget this, but it’s really not fair to the listener is it? It’s not their fault after all.
  • Be aware of possible distortion of sounds for the listener. They may hear your voice, but still may have difficulty understanding some words.
  • Most hearing-impaired people have greater difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise – even if they wear hearing aids. Try to minimize extraneous noise when talking.
    So if you’re trying to have a conversation and the television is on, then you’ll almost certainly need to turn the tv down or put the subtitles on. When you are speaking with a group of people, do your best to not interrupt each other. Instead, take turns when speaking. When a hard of hearing person is listening to a group conversation, it can be very difficult to follow what is being said. When someone else interrupts the flow and adds something into the conversation, it can be difficult to tell who started talking and what he or she is talking about.
  • As I’ve just stated in the last point, one of the most difficult listening situations for hearing impaired individuals is an environment with lots of background noise. Consider a noisy restaurant, bar, or a large event located in a room with poor acoustics. The voices of the people you are with can be very difficult to hear since they compete with all the additional background noise. Background noise can include the voices of others speaking, music playing over the speakers, television volume, and even kitchen noises. These noises can be very distracting when you are trying to speak to someone.
  • To hear and understand speech better, try to eliminate background noise when having a conversation. If you are at home, try turning off the television, radio, or other background noise. Instead of talking to another person while running water at the sink, turn off the faucet, turn around, and face your listener when talking.
  • If you plan on going to a noisy restaurant, there are a few ways in which you can try to eliminate background noise. First, consider going to dinner a little earlier or later than peak meal times.
    This might reduce the number of people in the restaurant, therefore reducing background noise. You can also request a seat away from the noisy kitchen or bar. Additionally, ask for a booth instead of a table. The high backs of the booth may help to reduce surrounding noises.
  • When in background noise situations, try to move closer to the person who is hard of hearing. In doing so, your voice will become louder as well as allow your face and lips to be more visible.
  • Some people with hearing loss are very sensitive to loud sounds. This reduced tolerance for loud sounds is not uncommon. Avoid situations where there will be loud sounds whenever possible.
  • If the hearing-impaired person has difficulty understanding a particular phrase or word, try to find a different way of saying the same thing, rather than repeating the original words over and over. This just leads to frustration, anger and eventually saying “forget it” and then there’s tension in the air unnecessarily.
  • Ensure the listener understands the general topic of the conversation. Avoid sudden changes of topic. If the subject is changed, tell the listener what you are talking about now.
    In a group setting, repeat questions or key facts before continuing with the discussion.
  • If you are giving specific information – such as time, place or phone numbers – to someone who is hearing impaired, have them repeat the specifics back to you. Many numbers and words sound alike.
  • Whenever possible, provide important information in writing, such as directions, event schedules, work assignments, etc.
  • Recognize that everyone, especially the hard-of-hearing, has a harder time hearing and understanding when ill or tired. This is often completely ignored by someone who is in good health.
  • Pay attention to the listener.
    A puzzled look may indicate misunderstanding. Tactfully ask if they understood you, or ask leading questions so you know your message got across.
  • Be patient! Stay relaxed and positive.

The difficulties of communications when you have a hearing loss

Some people are open about their hearing loss. They may ask you to repeat things or even ask you to make adjustments to help them understand you during the conversation – talk more slowly, or “talk to me rather than THROUGH me”.

However, many others have difficulty hearing and understanding speech. This may be because they are not yet ready to address their hearing loss, they don’t wear hearing aids, or they have hearing aids but the devices cannot completely restore hearing and speech understanding.
Hearing loss can be very difficult. Conversations can be extremely tiring, as they require a lot of energy, focus, and patience. Communication can be even more difficult if the person who has hearing loss is tired, sick, or anxious.

Does hearing loss only affect those affected?

Just as hearing loss can be difficult for the person experiencing it, it can also be strenuous for those who are trying to communicate with them. When communication breakdowns occur, both parties can become frustrated. Therefore, it is important to use some of the tips I have outlined in the bullet points above.
Always try to improve communication

A person who has hearing loss can often feel isolated and may even withdraw from certain social situations due to communication breakdowns.
This can take a toll on their overall quality of life. Think about what happened with my Grandpop and what he said.

While some people who are hard of hearing can benefit from hearing aids and other assistive devices, others may need additional assistance in order to hear and understand better. Fortunately, with the use of proper communication strategies, the listening experience can be improved for those who are hard of hearing.


If you or someone you care about has new or worsening hearing difficulties, consider seeing one of our hearing care professionals. An audiologist can determine the cause of hearing loss, suggest suitable hearing systems, and discuss additional communication strategies that may be helpful.
The Hearing Homecare Professionals

Hear4U offer a first-class service with 3 full-time centres, 5 professionally qualified audiologists, earwax removal specialists and Tinnitus counsellors to fulfil your requirements within the comfort of your own home or our beautifully built but technologically advanced centres and testing facilities.

Our diligent Pricing List has something to offer for everybody: 3 different levels of pricing and aftercare so everybody can buy at a price they like with the service they require, even housebound clients can access first-class support and aftercare with our Ultimate Care Package.

Hear4U is a local independent and not linked to any supplier therefore the choice of manufacturer is yours alone. We are here to serve the local public with their hearing issues.