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Interacting in groups settings with hearing loss

If you have a friend or family member with hearing loss, you've probably found ways to adjust for improved one-on-one communication. Your tactics for good communication might differ depending on whether the individual is open about and/or aware of his or her hearing loss, or if you've just recognized it yourself.

communicating with hearing lossBut group settings, such as at dinner or at a holiday party, can be a little trickier for that person because he or she has to navigate multiple people speaking, sometimes at the same time, and conversation can move pretty quickly.

Here are some tips for interacting with individuals with hearing loss in group settings:

  • Make sure not to talk over other people. This tends to happen when people get excited and, for the most part, it's not too much of a problem for people with regular hearing. But for people with hearing loss, whether they wear hearing aids or not, hearing often takes some level of focus. So background noise, including multiple conversations or voices, can make hearing difficult.
  • If your friend or family member is comfortable talking about his or her hearing loss, make sure to ask that person what you can do to make things easier.
  • Speak clearly and naturally. Don't cover your mouth with your hands and don't eat while speaking - this can interfere with lipreading.
  • Make sure to first gain the individual's attention by saying his or her name. Maintain eye contact while speaking.
  • If you're having a group conversation, stand by your friend and give him or her a heads up about the topic of conversation. Fill your friend in if he or she looks confused about something that was said or asked, but never answer for that person.
  • Be patient. Since hearing takes a bit of extra effort for people with hearing loss, and can in fact be tiring sometimes, be comfortable with the silence so your friend or family member has a turn to speak.
  • If it's OK with your friend or family member, let others in the group know in advance about some ways that they can make hearing and communication easier for the individual using some of the above tips and tactics.

If you suspect your friend or loved one is suffering from hearing loss, consider helping them find and set up an appointment with a local hearing healthcare professional. Additionaly, some people feel comforted by having a loved one accompany them to their appointment. 

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