Communication Strategies

Communication is a Two-Way Process  
If you have normal hearing and would like to improve the quality of your relationships with people who are hearing impaired, it is important to understand some of the problems and frustrations they regularly experience.

Listening can be an exhausting act of concentration for people with hearing loss. Sometimes it means a lot of work, requiring extra attention to everyday sounds and visual information. Environments with background noise are challenging and make communication even more difficult for individuals with hearing loss.

You can make it easier for hearing impaired individuals by understanding that the success of your conversation depends partly on you. By practicing the following conversation tips you will improve communication and reduce some of the strain experienced by hearing impaired listeners.

Points to Remember...

Get their attention
Before you begin speaking, say their name or gently touch their arm. This will help them to focus attention and concentrate on your words.

Be near them
Try to be just over a meter (or within four feet) of the listener so that your voice has adequate volume and is not diminished by background noise.

Face them
Do not turn or lower your head. Keep your mouth uncovered so that your speech volume is not reduced and words are not blurred. Also, try to remain still so that speech-readers can easily see your lips moving.

Speak slowly
Give listeners time to assimilate what you say, but be sure that you are not speaking so slowly that you embarrass them or lose their interest.

Speak clearly and expressively
Enunciate your words carefully; over-emphasizing can distort your facial gestures and lip movements. Do not hesitate, however, to use natural gestures and body language to express yourself. For example, a question will not be mistaken for a statement if you look like you are making an inquiry.

Provide clear, concise information
In order to understand your message, listeners must know what you are talking about. Organize the: who, what, when, where, how and why of your information so that you get to the point and ensure that you will be understood.

Rephrase your sentences
If you are misunderstood, rephrase your complete sentence rather than repeating the same key words. By keeping your message in context, you can help your listener understand your message more clearly.

Be aware of lighting
Back-lighting and dim light is distracting and will decrease the visibility of your gestures and lips. Be aware of background noise and speak clearly. Television, music and competing conversations create obstacles to clear communication. Even with the assistance of hearing instruments, it can be difficult for hearing impaired people to distinguish speech from other sounds in the environment.

Communication is a Shared Experience
Communication is the basis of all human interaction. Effective communication requires the patience, effort and attention of all participants. If communication breaks down, relationships break down and become less meaningful. Your effort counts! You can maintain healthy, productive interactions with those who have impaired hearing by employing conversation tips that make communication easier.

Remember - communication is a shared experience!