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Communication Strategies

Tips for Hearing People on Communicating with Hard of Hearing People

RULE:  When audio is poor, emphasize the visual.  Practice special speaking skills.
CommunicationSET YOUR STAGE

  • Face audience directly. Always look at the hard of hearing person.
  • Spotlight your face (no back lighting) so the hard of hearing person can see your mouth.
  • Avoid noisy backgrounds. Noise blocks out conversation sounds.
  • Get attention first. Be sure the hard of hearing person is aware of you
    before you speak.
  • Ask how you can facilitate communication.


  • Don't shout. Shouting distorts your face and mouth until speechreading
    is impossible.
  • Speak clearly, at moderate pace. Speak more slowly to let listener keep up with you.
  • Don't hide your mouth, chew food, gum, or smoke while talking.
  • Rephrase if you are not understood. Try different words or write key words on a pad.
  • Use facial expression, gestures, hand signals or finger spelling.
  • Give clues when changing subject. Hard of hearing people get lost with sudden changes.


  • Be patient if response is slow. Making sense of conversation takes time and is fatiguing.
  • Stay positive and relaxed.  If you are irritated or annoyed your speech will deteriorate.
  • Talk TO hard of hearing people, not ABOUT them.  Only their ears are "broken".
  • Offer respect to help build confidence. Encouragement is very
    helpful and appreciated.


Tips for Hard of Hearing People on Communicating with Hearing People

RULE: Communication is a two-way street.  Hard of hearing people must make as much effort as hearing people.


  • Tell others how best to talk to you. Explain your hearing loss
    and tell them what to do.
  • Pick your best spot (light, quiet, proximity). Choose where you want
    to sit or stand.
  • Anticipate difficult situations, plan how to minimize them.
    Think ahead.


  • Pay attention. Watch, listen and concentrate so you can follow the
  • Concentrate on speaker. You cannot talk and watch the view at
    the same time.
  • Look for visual clues. Watch for facial expressions, gestures and body language.
  • Ask for written cues if needed. Always carry a note pad and pencil.
    Ask for key words.
  • Don't interrupt. Let conversation flow to gain more meaning but admit
    if you are lost.


  • React.  Let speaker know how well he is doing. Show appreciation
    for efforts to help.
  • Don't bluff.  Admit it when you don't understand, to prevent serious
  • Conversation is very tiring.  If too tired to concentrate, ask for
    discussion later.
Reprinted with permission of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) For a PDF copy of these strategies, click here!