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5 Tips for Communicating with Individuals Facing Vision and Hearing Challenges

It’s common to experience difficulties in communicating effectively with loved ones who no longer hear or see as well as they used to. Many of us don’t know how or if our normal communication habits should be changed, and the person with diminished senses may have trouble articulating what would be helpful to him or her.

The five tips below can help you both to communicate in a more effective manner.

  1. Use clear visual cues.

Those with hearing loss often rely on inflection, body language, facial expressions and context clues while listening.

When speaking, use your body language to help improve communication. Face the person directly, make sure you have his or her attention and keep your hands away from your mouth.

  1. Speak naturally.

If  one has diminished sight or hearing, it’s crucial to speak naturally. Shouting can distort syllables, and making exaggerated mouth movements can actually hinder rather than help understanding.

Try to speak at a moderate pace and enunciate well, but don’t exaggerate your natural speech.

  1. Utilize good lighting whenever possible.

Good lighting is helpful to those with poor eyesight or poor hearing. Whenever possible, sit in areas that are well-lit without being blindingly bright. Proper lighting allows those with diminished vision to see more clearly, and it allows hearing impaired people to better see your face and body language.

  1. Be specific with your language.

This is especially important for those with diminished vision. Rather than giving vague directions by saying, “The bathroom is over there,” say something like, “The bathroom is straight down this hallway, and the door is on the left-hand side.”

This can also be helpful for hearing impairment. Certain phonetic sounds and syllables are hard to distinguish, so if your loved one is having trouble understanding a sentence, try to rephrase in a more clear and concise manner.

  1. Ask before giving assistance.

It can be demeaning to have people constantly jumping in to help without asking first. Your loved one may have diminished sight or hearing, but he or she may still be mentally sharp and able to do plenty of things without help.

Make it a habit to ask before assuming that your family member needs help navigating a store or ordering food in a noisy restaurant. He or she will know you care while still feeling competent.

Communication is a Two-way Street

Remember that you will both need to develop new communication habits. Be patient and understanding, and you’ll be communicating well in no time.