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Communicating with people who have trouble hearing

​​​​​​​​Be patient

  • Ask the person with hearing loss if there’s anything you can do to help him or her understand what you’re saying.
  • Give the person time to practice being an effective hearing aid user. While hearing aids are helpful, the listener may sometimes still have trouble understanding speech.
  • Be supportive. The person may have more trouble understanding if he or she is frustrated.

Help the person get the message

  • Call the person’s name or touch his or her arm before you start talking.
  • Tell the person what you’re going to talk about and if the topic changes.
  • Talk at an average rate, loud enough to be heard. Don’t shout.
  • Move things away from your face before talking (e.g., pens, books, hands, cigarettes). The listener may have trouble lip-reading if you chew gum or have a beard or moustache.
  • Change the words or repeat the message if the listener doesn’t understand your message.
  • Be expressive and use gestures (people use body language for clues to what you’re saying).

Choose a good place to communicate

  • Move close to the person when you speak. ​The best distance for communication is about 3 to 4 feet.
  • Move to the same room and get his or her attention before you start talking.
  • Sit or stand across from the person and look at him or her when you talk.
  • Find a bright place to talk. Communication is easier in good lighting where people can easily see your face.

Lower the noise level

  • Turn off or move away from things that make noise (e.g., TVs, fans, open windows) before talking to someone.
  • Use carpet instead of linoleum, upholstered furniture instead of wood, and put wallpaper or pictures on the walls and curtains on the windows in your home when possible. Sound bounces off hard surfaces and creates echoes, making speech harder to hear.

When it’s harder to communicate

Talking in groups

  • Talk to people in small groups and try to have only 1 person talk at a time. It can be hard to listen in large groups.
  • Let the hearing-impaired person know what you’re talking about and if the topic changes.

Talking in restaurants

  • Choose bright and quiet restaurants.
  • Go to restaurants when they’re less likely to be busy and noisy.
  • Try not to sit close to noisy areas like the kitchen, lounge, or front door.​
  • Ask for a high-backed booth or a table along a side wall.
  • Let the hearing-impaired person pick his or her seat first.
  • Sit across from the listener instead of beside them.


  • Speak clearly. It’s often hard for a hearing-impaired person to hear on the telephone. Cell phones and phones with poor sound quality make it very hard for a hearing-impaired person to hear.
  • Tell the person your name and when you change the topic.​​

Where to go get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:

  • Your doctor, public health nurse, or other health provider
  • Your local health centre​

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