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.
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.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Hearing loss and older adults. www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults. Updated July 17, 2018. Accessed August 17, 2021.
Walker LK. Patients with disabilities. In: Ritsema TS, Brown DL, Vetrosky DT, et al, eds. Ballweg's Physician Assistant: A Guide to Clinical Practice. 7th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 54.