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To Your Health: Communicating With Someone Who has Hearing Loss

by on April 05, 2015 6:00 AM

Communication is a major component in all human activities and relationships.

Hearing technology has greatly advanced over the past 10 years and that technology is now more natural and seamless than ever before.

However, even with the best technology, it is important to remember that good communication depends on a few key skills.

Hearing loss currently affects more than 36 million Americans. Although hearing problems are commonly associated with the normal aging process, more than half of all hearing-impaired persons are younger than 65, and 35 percent of those individuals do not utilize devices that can significantly improve hearing.

Hearing loss can have many causes, from age related changes, to ear infections, congenital defects, or trauma. Many people are not sure where they should begin to seek help for their hearing.

Reaching out to an audiologist is a great first step to take in determining if you have any significant loss. An audiologist is a highly trained physician who can diagnose hearing and balance disorders. Audiologists evaluate patients of all ages, from birth through ages well over 100. If, after evaluation, there is a medical concern, an audiologist can make the appropriate referral to a physician.

If you have a friend or loved one with hearing loss, some simple strategies can help improve your conversation.

Talk face-to-face: always make eye contact with the person with whom you are speaking. It is easier to hear when you can see facial expressions, hand gestures, and even read lips. Ensure there is adequate lighting in a room to see these visual cues. Also do not cover your face or mouth with reading material, hands, or other objects.

Speak at a slower pace: there is no need to shout. For some individuals with hearing loss, louder speech becomes distorted and more difficult to understand. By slowing your speech and pronouncing your words clearly, this will allow time for the listener to process speech. When asked to repeat yourself, rephrase what you are saying rather than repeating the same sentence again. Concise, clear speech is best.

Try to reduce background noise: background noise is a challenge, even for individuals who do not have hearing loss. Turn off the television or lower the volume, or move to a different room or hallway if possible. Move closer to the listener when speaking and ensure you are making eye contact so they can use visual cues.

By using these simple tips, you can help ensure a more lively conversation for all people involved, whether they experience hearing loss or not. These cues combined with quality hearing devices and other technology will keep loved ones involved in social interaction, which is good for overall well-being.

To learn more about the broader topic of hearing loss, I encourage you to attend a free community event on Wednesday, April 15, at 6:30 pm at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Attendees will have the opportunity to listen to several stories of individuals' journeys with hearing loss, including the vice president and membership chair of the Hearing Loss Association of America's Central PA Chapter, Nancy Maso. I will also be presenting about valuable resources in our area that can make communication easier for your or your loved one.

The event is free, but preregistration is encouraged by calling 814.234.6727. Learn more by visiting


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Leslie Purcell, AuD, has 10 years of experience as an audiologist and is currently employed by the Mount Nittany Physician Group. She and her husband, along with their two children, live in the Bald Eagle area. In the winter months, they enjoy hunting, sledding, snowman making and cookie baking.
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