Communicating with Patients with Hearing Impairments
As individuals age, hearing loss is common. Many elderly people wear hearing aids, but whether the individual has a hearing impairment or not, active speaking and listening strategies can make for successful communication.
Whenever you begin talking to a person with hearing difficulty, state his or her name. This allows the listener to focus his or her attention on you and not miss the first words of the conversation. It is also important to face the individual at the same level (sitting or standing) and in good light. If there is natural or artificial light in the room, make sure it is on the speaker’s face and not in the listener’s eyes. If the listener has one ear that he or she hears better from, position yourself to speak toward that direction.
It’s important not to talk too fast, so slow down a little. Don’t talk too slowly as that might be understood as “talking down” to the listener. Speak naturally using sentences that aren’t too complex. Don’t talk while you’re eating and keep your hands away from your face. Minimize external noise distractions. Close the door to the room, turn off the TV, or move away from other groups.
If the listener has trouble understanding something, try saying it in a different way. Certain sounds may be hard for some people to understand. When you are giving important or specific information, have the listener repeat it back to you or give the person the information in writing.
Above all, pay attention to the listener. Facial expressions and body language can tell you if he or she understands or doesn’t understand.