Help With Hearing a Conversation: Everyday Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

The purchase of a new hearing aid that can help with hearing conversation, the television, or the telephone is only the beginning of the process of aural rehabilitation. By the time you bring your new hearing aid home, you should have developed an understanding of what it can do to improve your particular hearing problems, based on your hearing tests and your discussions with your doctor and/or your hearing aid dispenser. And, as you now know, your hearing aid is only part of the long-term solution. There are changes that you can make, and requests that you can make of others, in order to further improve your ability to hear conversations on a day to day basis.

General Tips for Those with Hearing Problems

  • Before going into any situation, consider the following four questions:
  1. To whom will you be talking?
  2. What topics might come up?
  3. Where will you stand to have the best chance of hearing a conversation?
  4. How will you inform others that you have hearing problems?
  • When you are not sure what to say to someone when you are having trouble hearing, simply explain “I have hearing problems and it would help me if you would…” and then complete your sentence with a gentle correction of whatever the other person is doing. For example, “It would help me if you would speak more slowly,” or “It would help me if you would speak more loudly,” or even “It would help me if you would face me when you speak.”
  • Don’t be passive. If hearing a conversation and understanding what is being said is unusually difficult, speak up.
  • Be polite. Your goal in all cases should be to let the person speaking to you know that what they are saying is important. And because it is important, you want to make sure you are hearing the conversation accurately.
  • Instead of saying “What?” when you don’t understand what you heard, repeat the parts of the statement that you did hear. This will ensure that the other person will rephrase the statement, giving you another chance to understand it. For example, ask “What time did you say your nephew’s train comes in?” or “Where did you say the class is meeting?”
  • Learn more about additional assistive devices for your television or for movies or theater. These can work together with your hearing aid to help overcome your hearing problems and improve your ability to enjoy entertainment.

Hearing a Conversation Completely and Accurately

Hearing a conversation with anyone, anywhere – even in a noisy room - doesn’t have to be daunting for someone with hearing problems. With your properly calibrated hearing aid and the following helpful tips, you can ease your anxiety and enjoy talking with friends and family.

  • Stand where the lighting is good to improve your chances of understanding a conversation. While you may not realize it, everyone tends to lip read and study facial cues to better understand someone who is speaking. Good lighting will increase your ability to interpret these signals.
  • Remind people of your hearing problems and mention that they need to get your attention before beginning to speak to you. Let them know that by simply saying your name or touching you on the shoulder, they will give you a great advantage.
  • If you are in a noisy or crowded room, ask if the person speaking with you will move to a quieter area to continue the conversation.
  • Don’t accept “Whatever” as an answer to your questions. It should not matter that you have hearing problems -- you have a right to the important information that you are being told.

On the Telephone

When you are on the telephone with someone new, it is important to speak up so that you get the most out of hearing the conversation.

  • Tell the person you are speaking with that you have hearing problems and ask him or her to be patient.
  • Repeat back to the person the important details of the conversation to confirm that you heard everything correctly.

At Restaurants

Crowded or busy restaurants can present difficulty to someone who has hearing problems and who is using a hearing aid. But these simple tips can help alleviate the situation.

  • Ask for the quietest table, away from the bar, band, kitchen, or crowds to give you a better chance of hearing a conversation.
  • Try to sit between your guests, keeping closest to the person who is the quietest speaker.
  • When the waiter is telling you the specials, ask him or her to stand next to you and, if you feel comfortable, explain that you have hearing problems. You can also request a written copy if that is easier.
  • Hearing a conversation can be even more difficult when there is music in the background.  If you find that it is interfering with your ability to hear others, ask that the volume be turned down. It is likely that if the level of music is too loud for you, it is probably too loud for others.

Requests You Can Make to Those with Whom You Live

For people with whom you live – family, spouses, or roommates - there are several requests you can make in order to ensure that you have the best chance of hearing a conversation in your home.

  • Ask them to always face you when they are speaking to improve your chances of hearing the conversation accurately.
  • Ask them to speak slowly and clearly, but not to speak more loudly than normal, because loud speech can become distorted and actually may be more difficult to understand for someone with hearing problems.
  • Ask them not to chew gum or smoke while they are speaking to you. These activities can make it more difficult for you to read facial cues.
  • Above all, ask them for patience. They love you and they will surely comply.

Armed with these tips and a hearing aid that has been properly fitted and calibrated for your needs, you should find your hearing problems are greatly diminished and you’re your quality of life has improved immeasurably.