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How to help someone hear better - what you need to know

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

We very often find that friends and relatives of a hearing-impaired person need some help and advice too.

Normal hearing enables us to hear soft sounds, tolerate louder sounds, process complex sounds (such as speech), and to hear speech from a distance or in background noise. A hearing impairment leads to changes in sensitivity (sound has to be louder to be heard), tolerance of loud sounds (louder sounds can be uncomfortable) and speech can be less clear, particularly when spoken from a distance or in background sound.

Hearing aids obviously make sounds louder and compensate largely for the other problems; however even with hearing aids people may have some difficulties in certain situations, for example in noisy or echoey environments.

The degree of difficulty depends largely on the degree and type of hearing loss. So, someone with a milder hearing impairment is likely to have fewer problems than someone with a severe hearing impairment. However, everyone with a hearing loss is likely to have some degree of difficulty.

We hope that you find the tips below useful. As one in seven of the population has some degree of hearing impairment, you may be using these tactics more often than you thought!

When talking to someone with a hearing impairment:

  • A hearing-impaired person will find it much more difficult to hear you if there is background noise around. Monitor the environment for distracting sounds, such as stereo or television, kitchen noises or people talking. Either remove the distraction or move to a quieter area before starting the conversation.

  • Before speaking, get the person’s attention and make sure that you are facing them.

  • A distance between you and the speaker of 3 – 6 feet is optimal.

  • Try not to shout from another room, or across a busy room.

  • Make sure the room is well lit, and that you face the light source (e.g. the window), so that the light falls on your face when you are speaking.

  • Avoid intense light-sources, and inadequate light-sources. The listener should be able to see your facial expressions and lip movements as clearly as possible.

  • Don’t cover your mouth, read the paper, eat, drink or smoke while talking. Be aware that beards, moustaches and dark glasses can make lip reading much more difficult.

  • Speak clearly, a little slower and a little louder than normal – mumbling, shouting and exaggerating your speech will make it far more difficult to understand.

  • Body language, mime, gesture and facial expression all help to convey meaning – but don’t overdo it.

  • If the listener has not understood you, rephrase your statement (don’t keep repeating the same words).

  • The listener will find it easier to understand you if the topic of the conversation is clear. If you change topics rapidly in your conversation, give some indication that a new topic is being introduced.

  • Communication can be tiring for a hearing-impaired person, and they will find it easier to “hear” if they are relaxed. Take breaks if you need to.

Dining out:

  • Make reservations for a relatively quiet restaurant or ask for a quiet table.

  • A corner table can help to cut out background noise, and channel sound to the person listening.

  • Choose a table with good lighting, not flickering candlelight.

  • Tablecloths, padded seats, carpets and curtains all help to soak up background noise and will make hearing easier. Avoid busy, echoey open-plan restaurants.

  • Avoid banquet tables, where a number of people may be talking at once.

  • Discuss the menu, so that options later described by the waiter are familiar to you and the hearing-impaired person.

Driving in a car:

  • Select a vehicle with the least internal noise if you have a choice.

  • Seat the person with the better ear toward the centre of the vehicle or directed towards the speaker.

  • Reduce traffic noise by keeping windows closed.

  • Turn the radio off when speaking.

  • If the driver / passenger wears two hearing aids, consider turning the window side aid off for better speech understanding.

Attending theatre or concerts:

  • Order tickets or arrive early to obtain seating that is close to the stage where possible.

  • Some theatres provide amplifying headsets, and others have an area of seating fitted with an induction loop – sometimes called a telecoil. Make sure to ask the theatre if they have this, and check that it is working.

  • The induction loop will transmit sound from the stage directly to hearing aids if the hearing aid wearer has a telecoil pick up facility, often called a T setting.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further information.

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