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Hearing Loss and Communication Skills: Communication strategies for people with hearing loss

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Medically Reviewed By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert

Updated: 3rd March 2024
Communication strategies for people with hearing loss

Communication strategies for people with hearing loss

What strategies can help with communication?


Conversation can be exhausting for those with hearing loss

Conversations naturally require concentration, focus, energy and a lot of the time - patience.  That is the case for those who have 'normal' hearing.  Throw hearing loss into the mix, loud background noise and a group of friends all talking at the same time and communication gets stressful, challenging and simply exhausting.

In this article, we talk about the strategies you can put in place to support a loved one, a colleague or a friend with hearing loss.


Hearing loss and communication

Communication is a fundamental aspect of human interaction. For people with hearing loss, however, communication can often be challenging and frustrating. Find out what communication strategies people with hearing loss can use to improve their ability to communicate effectively with others.


How does hearing loss affect communication?

How does hearing impairment affect communication?  Hearing loss can significantly affect communication in several ways.  Hearing loss can cause a communication breakdown in:


  • Difficulty understanding speech: Hearing loss can make it difficult to hear certain sounds or words, especially those in higher frequencies. As a result, individuals with hearing loss may have difficulty understanding speech, particularly in noisy environments or when multiple people are speaking.
  • Misunderstanding information: Hearing loss can also lead to misunderstandings of information. When people with hearing loss miss certain sounds or words in a sentence, they may misunderstand the meaning or context of the sentence altogether.
  • Reduced ability to participate in conversations: Hearing loss can also reduce an individual's ability to participate in conversations, especially in groups. When people with hearing loss have difficulty hearing others, they may feel isolated and excluded from conversations.
  • Social withdrawal: People with hearing loss may also withdraw from social situations altogether, as they may feel embarrassed or frustrated by their inability to hear and communicate effectively.


Hearing loss and communication disorders

Not all individuals with hearing loss will develop communication disorders, and the severity of the communication disorder can vary. However, hearing loss can lead to communication disorders, which can further affect an individual's ability to communicate effectively. Communication disorders can affect an individual's ability to speak, understand, socialise, read or write.


 How to communication with hearing loss

Hearing loss and communication difficulties

Communication tips for hearing loss


Inform others about your hearing loss

How can we break down the barrier of communication when we or those we love have hearing loss?  The first step in effective communication for people with hearing loss is to inform others about their hearing loss.

Informing others allows them to adjust their communication methods to suit your needs. Informing them can be done in a casual manner by simply explaining that you have hearing loss and may need them to speak louder or more clearly.


Positioning and lighting

Another important strategy is to ensure that you are well-positioned to hear the speaker wherever you are. For example, sit in a quiet area with the light source behind the speaker and avoid loud background noise. This can help you see the speaker's face and lip movements, making it easier to understand them.


Use visual cues

Visual cues can be a great help for people with hearing loss. For example, lip-reading, sign language, or written notes can help to clarify speech. Non-verbal cues like facial expressions, body language, and gestures can also help to convey the meaning of the conversation.


Speak clearly and slowly

When speaking with someone with hearing loss, it is important to speak clearly and slowly. This allows the listener to focus on the speech and it also helps them to understand what is being said. Avoid speaking too fast or too softly, as this can make it difficult for the listener to understand.


Repeat or rephrase

If the listener has not understood what has been said, it is important to repeat or rephrase the information. This helps to ensure that the listener understands the information being communicated, which is integral within a workplace environment. It is important to use different words when rephrasing the information, as this can help the listener understand it better.


Use assistive listening devices

Assistive listening devices can be used to enhance communication for people with hearing loss. These devices include hearing aids and hearing aid accessories.  These devices work by amplifying sound or filtering out background noise, making it easier for the listener to hear and understand the speaker.


Face the listener

When speaking with someone with hearing loss, it is important to face them directly. This allows them to see your face and lip movements, making it easier for them to understand what is being said. Avoid turning your head or looking away when speaking with someone with hearing loss.


Avoid shouting

Shouting is not an effective communication strategy for people with hearing loss. In fact, it can make it more difficult for them to understand what is being said. Speak clearly and slowly, and use visual cues if necessary, to ensure effective communication.


Eliminate background noise

Background noise can make it difficult for people with hearing loss to understand speech. It is important to eliminate as much background noise as possible when communicating with someone with hearing loss. Turn off the television or radio, close windows and avoid socialising in noisy areas.


Be patient

It is important to be patient when communicating with someone with hearing loss. It may take them longer to process the information and respond to the conversation. Allow them time to think about what is being said, and avoid interrupting or finishing their sentences.


Personalise your hearing aids

If you have hearing loss, chances are you will have difficulty hearing in background noise.  Hearing aids can help reduce background noise by using advanced algorithms to filter out unwanted sounds and enhance speech.

Most hearing aids now have features such as noise reduction and directional microphones that can help to further reduce background noise and help with better communication.


Communicating and hearing loss

Language and communication issues attributable to hearing loss

How does hearing impairment affect communication and language?


Do's and Don'ts - Communication tips for talking to people with hearing loss


Get their attention with a tap or waveDon't shout at them or clap
Communicate face-to-faceDon't turn your head when communicating
Speak slowly and clearlyDon't speak fast or loud
If they misheard you rephrase, be patient and use notes if neededDon't repeat (but in a louder voice) or get frustrated


In conclusion

The extent to which hearing loss affects communication can vary depending on the severity of the hearing loss, the individual's age and other factors. It is essential for individuals with hearing loss to seek appropriate treatment to improve their communication abilities and overall quality of life.

Communication strategies can be an effective tool for people with hearing loss to improve their ability to communicate effectively with others. Strategies such as informing others about your hearing loss, positioning and lighting, using visual cues, speaking clearly and slowly and repeating or rephrasing information.

Our guidance is aimed at those who have mild to moderate hearing loss, as those with profound loss or who are deaf may have additional strategies that will be more effective.  However, using assistive listening devices, facing the listener, avoiding shouting, eliminating background noise and being patient can make a significant difference in effective communication to all.


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Hearing loss and communication

Think your hearing has worsened?  An early diagnosis of hearing loss and intervention can help prevent or minimise the impact of communication disorders related to hearing loss.

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►How does hearing loss affect quality of life?

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Watch the Tips on Communicating with Hearing Loss by Hearing Like Me Below

This article was written by Kimberley Bradshaw

Meet Kimberley Bradshaw , Head of Customer Content Experience

She has collaborated and written about hearing healthcare for several online publications.  By working closely with Hearing Aid UK audiologists, and experts, Kimberley develops the online content, so that the customer's experience is the best it can be. 

Kimberley's medical representation has allowed her to focus on the importance of hearing healthcare and explore the many ways in which hearing loss and its awareness can be improved.

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