Hearing Impaired, Hearing Loss

How to Communicate with a Hearing-Impaired Person

Many activities of daily life become more difficult with impaired hearing, not least of which is participating in conversations. Given the fact that millions of people cannot hear the frequencies at which speech occurs, knowing how to communicate with a hearing-impaired person can make a difference. It can improve communication, make it easier for them to participate in a conversation and enjoy social situations.

Hearing loss impacts millions of people in the United States.

  • There are approximately 37.5 million1 people over the age of 18 who have trouble hearing
  • Approximately 18 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 69 report having “speech-frequency” hearing loss in both ears as the result of being exposed to high noise levels at work
  • Overall, 48 million Americans have hearing loss

The most important rule of thumb when speaking to someone with any degree of hearing loss is to not yell. While raising the level of one’s voice slightly may improve the individual’s ability to hear, yelling does not. It tends to blur words further and can agitate the person with hearing loss. Making an individual with impaired hearing feel badly or incapable of participating in a conversation will not help them to hear more clearly.


Six (6) tips for communicating more effectively with hearing impaired people

Gain the person’s attention by calling them by name
This gives the person an opportunity to pay attention only to the speaker and hear the first part of the conversation.

Speak a bit more slowly than normal but not in slow motion
Slower speech allows the speaker to enunciate more clearly and not jumble words together.
Speak naturally but not rapidly so that the person has the opportunity to hear each individual word.

Enunciate clearly
It is common to speak rapidly in one’s native language, but that makes it difficult for people with any level of hearing impairment to distinguish one word from another. Speaking each word clearly makes it easier to hear and understand.

Use hand motions to illustrate what you are saying
There is no need to go overboard, but a bit of visual support can always help a conversation, especially if it takes place in a noisy party or restaurant.

Move closer to the person if possible, but not too close
It can be difficult to hear across a noisy table in the best of circumstances. Sit beside the person and if they indicate that one ear is better than another for hearing, move to sit on that side.

Shorten long stories and get to the point
Tell stories succinctly. If the person cannot understand some of what you are saying, rephrase the sentence rather than repeating the same words. Some words are especially problematic and easily confused if they have similar structure, such as “food” and “fool,” “rash” and “rush.”

Using these tips can help you to converse with someone who has impaired hearing. It can reduce frustration for them and make it easier for them to hear, and participate in, the conversation.



1: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing