Written By:  Kathleen Page, NYS Licensed and Board Certified Audiologist

The effects of hearing loss are not the same for everyone. Many individuals with hearing loss find it difficult to understand speech and distinguish speech from background noise. For the hard-of-hearing person, effective communication is a challenge.

While hearing aids greatly improve the listening experience, some additional cues are helpful to understand speech better in difficult listening environments. Here are some tips to improve communication.

Tips for the hearing aid userone of the most critical factors for effective communication is YOU!

  • Make sure your hearing aids are working properly and cleaned/serviced regularly.
  • If you are prone to earwax, schedule a visit with your ENT to manage it at least twice a year.
  • Be open with people about your hearing loss.
  • Ask people to get your attention and face you when they speak.
  • Ask others to speak clearly and naturally—and not to shout. Shouting changes how words sound.
  • Minimize background noise. Turn off the TV, or move to a quieter location or away from the noise.
  • Be within 3 or 4 feet of the person talking; it will be easier to hear them and to watch their lips.
  • Turn your back to bright light so that the person talking to you will face it. It will be easier to read lips and facial cues if the speaker’s face is illuminated and the light is not in your eyes.
  • If you don’t understand the first time, ask the speaker to repeat, speak more slowly or rephrase.
  • If your hearing is not the same in both ears, turn your better ear toward the speaker.
  • If you are listening intently for a while, you may feel tired. Take a break.
  • In difficult listening situations, wireless communication solutions like a table mic or partner clip-on mic can help overcome background noise.
  • Consider joining a lip-reading course locally or online (e.g., org) to hone your skills.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Nobody hears correctly all of the time.


Tips for the communication partner—how we speak can make communication easier or more difficult.

  • Be sure to get the individual’s attention before you start speaking.
  • Make sure your partner can see your face, and keep your hands away from your face while talking.
  • Reduce the distance between you and the listener, especially in background noise.
  • DON’T SHOUT! Maintain a normal tone of voice and speak clearly. Shouting will cause discomfort and sound distortion.
  • Speak more slowly, but do not speak in “slow-motion” or over-enunciate. Interject pauses to give the listener time to digest what you have said.
  • Keep statements simple. Emphasize key words or phrases.
  • Repeat yourself. If the listener continues to have trouble, rephrase the sentence.
  • Don’t speak while chewing, eating or smoking—your speech will be more difficult to understand.
  • Don’t expect the person with hearing loss to hear you from another room!
  • Adjust lighting so that your face is illuminated, allowing the listener to watch your lips more easily.
  • Reduce background noise when carrying on conversations. Turn off the TV or radio, or move away from the noise source.
  • When dining out, request a booth or table near the wall and away from high traffic areas. If people are talking and the individual seems lost, fill them in with a few explanatory words.
  • Recognize that hard-of-hearing people hear and understand less when they are tired or ill.
  • Ask the hard-of-hearing person what you might do to make conversation easier for them.