It can be difficult to know how best to interact with a person who has hearing loss. Adjusting your behavior so they can understand you is important, but it’s also important to consider their feelings, especially if the hearing difficulty is new. Here are some tips to help you communicate and support a loved one, acquaintance, coworker, or friend who is experiencing hearing loss.

People who are hard of hearing take longer to process sounds. To aid communication, try and over-communicate. When you are initiating a conversation, say their name first to get their attention. If it seems appropriate, touch their shoulder or elbow to let them know that you want them to turn toward you.

There’s no need to slow your speech way down and over-enunciate, that can seem patronizing. Furthermore, it can make lip reading very difficult.

Start by giving some context to what you want to talk about, this helps the person who is hard of hearing to better guess what the words are if he or she misses a few. If you need to say something for a second time, rephrase and use different words instead of repeating yourself exactly.

Keep in mind that location can substantially aid or hinder a person’s ability to hear you clearly. Whenever possible, avoid locations with a lot of background noise, like at a crowded restaurant. Position yourself so that you are facing the person so that he or she can gather body language cues and read your lips. Avoid walking and talking at the same time.

If you have someone in your life with hearing loss, the best thing to do is ask him or her about the best ways to communicate with them. That way, you let him or her know that you are aware of the difficulty and that you care about still communicating with them in the best way possible.

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