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Talking to someone with hearing loss

A person with hearing loss may have problems understanding a conversation with just one person. Being in a conversation with a group can be even more difficult and often leave someone with hearing loss feeling isolated or cut off.

If you live or work with someone who does not hear well, follow some of the tips below.

Tips That Can Help

When speaking to someone with hearing loss, stand or sit 3 - 6 feet away. Stand so that they can easily see your face, mouth, and gestures. These visual clues help a person with hearing loss understand what is being said. You should:

  • Talk in a room where there is enough light for the person with hearing loss to see the visual clues.
  • When talking, do not cover your mouth with your hands, eat, or chew on anything.

Choose or create the best environment in which to have a conversation. Reduce the amount of background noise by turning off the television or radio. Choose a quiet area of a restaurant, lobby, or office where there is less activity and surrounding noise.

Make an extra effort to include the person in a conversation with others:

  • Never talk about a person with hearing loss as if they're not there.
  • Let the person know when the topic has changed.
  • Use the person's name so they know you are speaking to them.

Say your words slowly and clearly. You can speak louder than normal, but do not shout or exaggerate your words. Exaggerating words may even distort the way they sound and make it harder for someone with hearing loss to understand.

If the person with hearing loss does not understand a word or phrase, choose a different one rather than repeating it.

References

Dugan MB. Living with Hearing Loss. Galludet University Press , Washington DC. March 2003.

Update Date: 7/7/2011

Updated by: Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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