Communication Strategies for the Hearing Aid Wearer:

Using Listening and Speechreading Skills  to Enhance Communication While  Removing Barriers to Understanding

By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D.

For those who experience any level of hearing loss (including hearing loss treated by the use of hearing aids) communication can be greatly augmented through the use of active listening and effective speechreading skills.

Sometimes called empathetic listening, active listening can be described as a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Speechreading is the act or process of determining the intended meaning of a speaker by utilizing all visual cues that accompany speech, including lip movements, facial expressions and body language.

As a partner in the communication process, the speaker also has a role to play when it comes to maximizing communication effectiveness. By removing all physical barriers to speech, the speaker can control the environment to ensure understanding takes place. These communication strategies are reviewed below.

Communication Strategies for the LISTENER with Hearing Loss:

Step #5: Develop active listening and speechreading skills.

1.    Make direct eye-contact with the speaker.

2.    Wear your glasses, if appropriate, to aid in speechreading.

3.    Sit no more than 3-5 feet away from the speaker.

4.    If one ear is better than the other, sit with the better one closer to the speaker.

5.    Concentrate on the ideas that the speaker is expressing rather than trying to understand every word that is said.

6.    Don’t pretend you understand when you don’t.

7.    Be willing to acknowledge your hearing loss and ask for help.

8.    Maximize the use of lighting. Have the light behind you, not behind the speaker where it may cast a shadow.

9.    Eliminate interfering background noise. Make plans in advance when going to a restaurant, church service so you can sit in the best seat available.  Request an assistive listening device.

10. When talking on the phone, verify what you heard by repeating it back to the speaker.

Communication Strategies for the Listener with Hearing Loss

Step #1:
Recognize and understand the signs and symptoms of hearing loss.

Step #2:
Understand treatment options.

Step #3:
Have realistic expectations while implementing strategies for successful adaptation

Step #4:
Make an unwavering commitment to wearing hearing aids or using assistive listening devices.

Step #5:
Develop listening and speech reading skills.

Step #6:
Be assertive. Take responsibility for speech comprehension by taking steps for controlling the listening environment and giving honest and direct feedback to the speaker.

Communication Strategies the Speaker

Step #1:
Stop enabling the hearing impaired listener.

Step #2:
Support and encourage all efforts to get treatment.

Step #3:
Develop strategies for clear speech. (voice intensity, projection, rate and clarity)

Step #4:
Learn to understand and use body language.

Step #5:
Remove physical barriers to speech.

Step #6:
Learn to make the message interesting.

And above all, maintain realistic expectations about what you will be able to hear in various situations. Even listeners with normal hearing often struggle to hear in difficult listening environments.

While most people with hearing loss pick up some aspects of speechreading on their own, skills can be improved through training.  Speech Pathologists and Audiologists can recommend specific training programs and suggest classes, books and CDs on the topic.

Communication Strategies for the SPEAKER:

Step #5: Remove physical barriers to speech

As always, the speaker must share in the responsibility for ensuring effective two-way communication. Some “common sense” strategies that optimize the opportunity for effective communication include the following:

1.    Reduce background noise and other distractions.

2.    Encourage the hearing-impaired person to use assistive listening devices or to bring a non-hearing impaired support person

3.    Make sure you have the person’s attention before you begin speaking.

4.    Ensure your face is not blocked.  Adjust lighting if necessary.  Do not sit behind a laptop so your face cannot be seen. Remind the listener to wear eyeglasses if necessary.

5.    Speak distinctly and clearly without shouting

6.    Don’t put your hand, a pencil or other object in front of your mouth.

7.    Don’t chew gum or suck on candy while talking

8.    Use body language and facial expressions to emphasize message.

9.    Use visual aids.

10.    Check for understanding.

Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D., owner and audiologist at Advanced Hearing Solutions in Englewood, FL is a licensed professional whose 26 year career has been devoted to helping people of all ages hear and understand more clearly. Dr. Crosby received her BS and MS degrees from FSU and her Doctorate in Audiology from UF.  Her credibility as an authority grew during her tenure as the Director of Audiology at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota, FL from 1991-1998. Today, in addition to managing a successful audiology practice, Dr. Crosby is involved in creating hearing loss awareness through her jewelry and accessory company She has served and is serving on various professional boards and committees and was president of the Florida Academy of Audiology in 2000 and 2010.  She has been married to Michael for 23 years and has one daughter.

For more information contact Noël’s office at 941-474-8393 or you can visit her website at


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