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Communication strategies

Communication Strategies for the Hearing Impaired

We want to make your life easier, so here are some pointers on listening and communicating with others who may not be hearing impaired.


  • Make it a habit to watch the speaker even if listening is not difficult. It is good to get in the habit of paying attention.
  • Don't interrupt the speaker before he or she finishes a sentence. You may not understand the beginning, but may catch the end.
  • When you are aware that you missed something that was said, ask that it be repeated.
  • Summarize what you did hear so that your communication partner knows what to fill in.
  • Learn to look for ideas rather than isolated words.
  • Learn about the topic being discussed. When you know what a person is talking about, it is easier to follow the conversation.
  • Keep alert for key words in sentences in order to follow ideas.
  • Use the clues from the situation to help get meanings. The idea is often spelled out by the actual situation. You may be able to anticipate words or phrases that will probably be used.
  • Don't be afraid to guess using situational and contextual clues.
  • Keep informed of your friends' and family's interests. If you and others have favorite topics, this limited content makes understanding easier.
  • Stay aware of current events. When you know something about a topic you can more readily recognize key words, names and so forth. It will be helpful to read the daily paper and to be aware of the programs many people watch, even if you don't watch TV.
  • Ask family members to keep you informed about things that are happening in your community and neighborhood and about events in the lives of people you know.
  • Keep your sense of humor.


Communication Strategies For Your Home

Even communication at home can be hard for the hearing impaired.


  • Keep background noise to a minimum. For example, turn off the TV or radio or do not have a conversation in front of the refrigerator or while water is running.
  • Keep a good line of sight. Do not try to communicate with someone from different rooms or while your back is to them.
  • Try not to be more than 6 to 7 feet apart. The distance reduces the loudness of the message. For example to do not sit at opposite ends of a long couch.
  • Make seating choices at the dinner table which provide the best opportunity for good hearing. If, for example, you have particular difficulty hearing a specific family member, then sit next to them at the dinner table with your good ear to them.
  • Try to always have visual contact with the speaker and watch lip movement, facial expressions and body gestures, as all can provide clues. Make sure your vision is up to date.
  • Modify your home environment to include extra lighting to more easily see a speaker's face. Also include carpets or drapes to reduce unnecessary reverberation.
  • Position the television closer to you if you have difficulty hearing it or consider a TV listening system.
  • Try to relax when communicating with others. Easier said than done, we know! However, if you are too tense or trying too hard to communicate, then it will be more difficult to understand speech.
  • Remember they are family. Let them know how they can help you by asking them to:
      • Speak in a normal tone of voice (don't over-articulate or shout)
      • Get your attention first and look directly at you
      • Do not speak to you from another room or with their back to you
  • Be an assertive listener. Provide them with instructions. For example, please rephrase or speak slowly.
  • Avoid sitting close to walls.
  • Be understanding when your loved ones forget you have a hearing impairment.
  • Keep up to date on family members' interests and current events.
  • Keep a sense of humor about your communication errors.


Communicating in Large Groups

Communicating in large groups can be especially difficult for those who are hearing impaired. But there are ways to make it easier.


  • Often churches, theatres and auditoriums offer assistive listening devices. It is a good practice to call ahead and inquire.
  • Do not sit under the balcony.
  • If the speaker uses a microphone, arrive early and explain that you are hearing impaired and need them to stay close to the microphone while speaking.
  • If it is a question and answer forum, ask that the questions be repeated before the answer is given.
  • Move closer to the speaker.
  • Keep a good line of sight. For example, don't sit behind pillars or near the back of the room.
  • Obtain background information beforehand if possible. For example, if it is a play, research the story or find out information about the plot.
  • Avoid sitting close to walls.
  • If you attend this large area often, experiment to find the best place to sit.
  • Avoid sitting near children, as they tend to talk and move about more frequently.
  • Sit up closer to take advantage of visual clues.
  • Keep you vision up to date.
  • Stay on top of current events.
  • Sit close to speakers, but not so close as to cause feedback or be in the dead space.


Other Helpful Tips:

  • When at restaurants, study the menu so that you can order everything you want so as to avoid the need for the server to ask a lot of questions.
  • Ask your friends to tell you when they are changing the topic and to what.
  • Establish conversation rules. If they are your friends, you can ask that only one person speak at a time.
  • Try to sit at a round table so you have visual contact with everyone, or sit in the centre of the group.
  • You need to be more than a passive listener. Take control over your own listening needs.
  • Move closer to the speaker.
  • Never interrupt the speaker before he/she finishes. Summarize what you did hear so they know what to fill in.
  • Let people know you are hearing impaired. They will never know you need help if you do not tell them.
  • Relax! It is not realistic to expect to hear everything that is said to you all the time.
  • Learn to look for ideas rather than isolated words.
  • Use the clues from situations to help get ideas. You may be able to anticipate words or phrases that will probably be used.
  • Keep alert for keywords in sentences to follow ideas.
  • Use your best judgment and learn to size up a room. For example, a table near a speaker or outside on a street patio with nearby traffic will not be a good listening situation.
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