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Communication strategies

Workers with hearing loss may miss or misunderstand key words, and therefore receive confusing or nonsensical messages. To avoid embarrassment, they may bluff by smiling and nodding even when they may not have heard correctly. Avoid errors caused by this by asking the worker to repeat the message to confirm it is understood – especially an important message.

For most workers with hearing loss, hearing devices will improve hearing but not to the level that might be considered ‘normal’. For this reason, many workers will look for visual cues to help them interpret conversations.

The most effective communication with a worker with hearing loss occurs when both parties to the conversation play their part to make sure that the message is heard correctly and understood.

Ask the worker how they prefer to communicate to ensure the communication is effective, and what strategies work best for them.

Gain attention

  • Call the worker by name to attract attention or perhaps use a gentle touch to help
  • Don’t begin talking until the worker knows he/she is being spoken to and is facing you

Face each other

  • Don’t cover your face (or mouth) while speaking
  • Where possible, keep facial hair trim so that moustaches and beards don't interfere with lipreading

Good lighting

  • When speaking to a worker, ensure your face is in good light to give the worker the best chance of lipreading and interpreting facial expressions

Avoid background noise

  • Close doors and windows to help reduce background noise or move to a quieter area

Talk normally

  • Talk normally, a little slower and not exaggerating lip movements
  • Don’t shout
  • Be aware that unfamiliar accents are often particularly difficult to understand
  • Keep sentences short and avoid slang and jargon if possible – keep these for written communication
  • Get to the point

Rephrase

  • Sometimes key words are missed. Try rephrasing by saying the same thing by using different words. If it doesn’t work write it down

Use communication systems that don’t rely on verbal communication

  • Demonstration to explain new tasks
  • Email or other visual/text base channels
  • Flashing lights/vibrating alerts to supplement auditory alarms
  • Encourage the worker to use SMS (with vibrate function to alert message in) for mobile phone communication
  • Signals to spell out words or communicate a command (alpha bravos codes etc)