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Talking to someone with hearing loss

It may be hard for a person with hearing loss to understand a conversation with another 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 (90 to 180 centimeters) 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.

Nicastri C, Cole S. Interviewing elderly patients. In: Cole SA, Bird J, eds. The Medical Interview. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 22.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website. Quick guide to health literacy and older adults: hearing impairment. health.gov/communication/literacy/olderadults/hearing.htm. Accessed June 16, 2019.

Review Date: 5/22/2019

Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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