Speaking Tips for Friends of People with Impaired Hearing

speaking tips for conversations with people with impaired hearing

Speaking Tips for Friends of People with Impaired Hearing

Last fall, we wrote about how acoustical design can improve speech intelligibility for people with impaired hearing. Yet even in a room with great acoustics, people with impaired hearing can still have difficulty following conversations. With that in mind, here are a few tips that will help people understand you more clearly, wherever you strike up a conversation.

Speak at a moderate rate.

Keep your voice at a consistent volume. Maintain an even volume throughout each sentence, and try not to drop your voice at the end of each sentence.

Always speak as clearly and accurately as possible. Consonants, especially, should be enunciated with care.

Don’t over-articulate. Mouthing or over-the-top articulation can be just as bad as mumbling.

Pronounce every name clearly and carefully. Include references with names for easier understanding: “Joan, from the office” or “The Bay, the big department store.”

Slow your rate of speech when you change to a new subject. Make sure the listener follows the change and include a key word or two to indicate that you are changing topics.

Don’t cover your mouth. Obscuring your mouth can affect your conversation partner’s ability to read lips, and lip-reading helps listeners discern speech.

Speak in a normal voice. While you might think that shouting helps make your voice clearer, it’s often more difficult for a person with impaired hearing to understand you when you’re shouting.

Face the listener. Don’t turn away in the middle of a remark or story. Make sure your face is well-lit and that the listener can see it. To that end, avoid standing between a listener who has trouble hearing and a window that is brightly lit.

Use longer phrases. They are easier to understand than short phrases. For example, “Will you give me a drink of water?” presents much less difficulty than “Will you get me a drink?” Word choice can also be important here. “Fifteen cents” and “fifty cents” may be confused, but “half a dollar” is clear.

For someone with impaired hearing, participating in a group conversation can be difficult—especially in a space with significant background noise. Sometimes being disengaged from a group can lead to feelings of isolation. So if you have a friend or family member with impaired hearing, take time to engage them when you speak and remember to use these tips.

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