13 – Guidelines for Effective Communication

There are a number of things that people can do to prevent or reduce those communication problems that often result from hearing loss. Most people are unaware of the effects of their communication behavior on another person’s ability to understand what is being said.  Most of us are more interested in what we are saying than in how we are saying it. As a result, many of us develop life-long communication habits that may not work very well when a hearing loss is present. Some of these life-long communication habits can be quite difficult to break.

The first essential step in establishing effective communication behavior is increasing awareness of what needs to be done differently. There are 12 guidelines for the person who is talking and 12 guidelines for the person who is listening. When these guidelines or rules are followed, communication difficulties decrease dramatically.

Speaker (Communication Partner) Guidelines

Listener (Person with Hearing Loss) Guidelines

Two Factors to Consider

Does the person need to learn what to do?

Many people have to learn the essentials of effective communication behaviors. This learning requires specific Information about what to do to improve understanding of what is being said. In order for them to perform effectively however, they need two additional things: the opportunity to practice doing the required behaviors and feedback about how well they do it. Learning to effectively perform any new behavior requires both practice and feedback.

Does the person need permission to do it?

We have found that sometimes, a person knows what to do to prevent or reduce communication problems, but does not do it for fear of being impolite or of being judged as socially unacceptable in some way. In such cases the person may need permission to do what needs to be done in order to understand what is being said.

For example, one woman who has a severe hearing loss had gone to a dinner party for several members of her woman’s group at friend’s house. She reported having been unable to follow the conversation around the dinner table due to large bouquets of flowers on the table that obstructed her view of the other women’s faces and due to music from a stereo that interfered with her ability to understand what they were saying. When asked why she didn’t request to have the flowers moved and the music turned down or off, she replied, “Oh, that wouldn’t be acceptable; it would hurt the hostess’s feelings.” Then, when asked if having others frequently repeat what they were saying or pretending to understand when she, in fact didn’t understand were more socially acceptable, she came to realize that efforts to improve communication really are more beneficial to everyone involved, than is remaining silent and failing to understand most of what the others are saying.

Being able to inform other people about what they need to change in order to be understood really requires that they know about the presence of the hearing loss. Otherwise, if someone, for example, is asked to come to where the listener is located before beginning to talk, the person speaking, not having a valid reason for complying with the request, may simply refuse to cooperate. So, it is usually to the benefit of the person who has hearing loss to inform others about its presence. Otherwise, they might misinterpret misunderstandings and mistakes that are made as being due to something else.

The Risk of Not Informing Others of Your Hearing Loss

The person might be labeled as being

It is better for consumers when people know that they have a hearing loss than to think any of the other things listed above about them. It is also important that consumers are able to inform others about their hearing loss in a way that is not impolite, self-demeaning or offensive.

When informing others, try to avoid