Living with hearing loss
If you are living with hearing loss, you know that it takes extra effort to communicate with others.
There are techniques you can learn to improve communication and avoid stress. These techniques can also help you:
- Avoid becoming socially isolated
- Remain more independent
- Be safer wherever you are
Many things in your surroundings can affect how well you hear and understand what others are saying. These include:
- The type of room or space you are in, and how the room is set up.
- The distance between you and the person talking. Sound fades over distance, so you will be able to hear better if you are closer to the speaker.
- The presence of distracting background sounds, such as heat and air conditioning, traffic noises, or the radio or TV. In order for speech to be heard easily, it should be 20 to 25 decibels louder than any other surrounding noises.
- Hard floors and other surfaces that cause sounds to bounce and echo. It is easier to hear in rooms with carpeting and upholstered furniture.
Changes in your house or office can help you hear better:
- Make sure there is enough lighting to see facial features and other visual cues.
- Position your chair so that your back is to a light source rather than your eyes.
- If your hearing is better in one ear, position your chair so the person talking is more likely to speak into your stronger ear.
When Taking Part in a Conversation
To better follow a conversation:
- Stay alert and pay close attention to what the other person is saying.
- Notify the person with whom you are speaking of your hearing difficulty.
- Listen to the flow of the conversation for a while, if there are things you do not pick up at first. Certain words or phrases will often come up again in most conversations.
- If you become lost, stop the conversation and ask for something to be repeated.
- Use a technique called speech reading to help understand what is being said. This method involves watching a person's face, posture, gestures, and tone of voice to get the meaning of what is being said. This is different from lip reading. There needs to be enough light in the room to see the other person's face in order to use this technique.
- Carry a notepad and pencil and ask for a key word or phrase to be written down if you do not catch it.
Many different devices to help people with hearing loss are available. If you are using hearing aids, regular visits with your audiologist are important.
People around you can also learn methods to help them talk to a person with hearing loss.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Assistive devices for people with hearing, voice, speech, or language disorders. www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/assistive-devices-people-hearing-voice-speech-or-language-disorders. Updated November 12, 2019. Accessed August 17, 2021.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Hearing loss and older adults. www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults. Updated July 17, 2018. Accessed August 17, 2021.
Nieman CL, Lin FR, Agrawal Y. Geriatric otology: population health and clinical implications. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 133.
Oliver M. Communication devices and electronic aids to activities of daily living. In: Webster JB, Murphy DP, eds. Atlas of Orthoses and Assistive Devices. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 40.
Review Date: 6/6/2021
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.