Talking to someone with hearing loss

Making it easier

It may be hard for a person with hearing loss to understand a conversation with one other person. Being in a group conversation can be even harder. The person with hearing loss can feel isolated or cut off.

If you live or work with someone who does not hear well, follow the tips below to better communicate.

Tips that can help

Make sure the person with hearing loss can see your face.

  • Stand or sit 3 to 6 feet away.
  • Position yourself so the person you are talking to can see your mouth and gestures.
  • Talk in a room where there is enough light for the person with hearing loss to see these visual clues.
  • While talking, do NOT cover your mouth, eat, or chew on anything.

Find a good environment for the conversation.

  • Reduce the amount of background noise by turning off the TV or radio.
  • Choose a quiet area of a restaurant, lobby, or office where there is less activity and 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 are 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.
  • Do NOT exaggerate your words because this may distort how they sound and make it harder for the person to understand you.
  • 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. Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press; 2003.

Revision

Last reviewed 5/17/2013 by Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Associate Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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