Conquering Communication Breakdowns In The Car Caused By Hearing Loss

Conquering Communication Breakdowns In The Car Caused By Hearing Loss

One of the best parts of any road trip is the conversations you have with the people you're with, but for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, car rides can present some communication challenges.

There are many distractions and disturbances in cars and on the road. 

Traffic creates a lot of background noise, and so do radios and other passengers. You might not mean to, but chatting in an enclosed space like a car can make it difficult for the person with hearing loss to contribute or even understand what's being said. 

So if you want to make the car ride fun and accessible for everybody, roll up the windows, turn off the radio, and talk one at a time so your hard-of-hearing passenger can easily keep up with the conversation. 

If you have hearing loss and struggle to converse with your friends and family in the car, then we're here to help you get through it. Today we'll show you how to improve communication in the vehicle if you're deaf or hard of hearing and provide some easy listener and speaker tips. 

How to improve communication in the car if you’re deaf or hard of hearing 

Nobody wants to spend a car journey driving in silence or, worse, trying to shout over the booming traffic outside. Thankfully, you can do a few different things to make your car journey as easy as possible for deaf or hard-of-hearing passengers. 

Here are five things listeners and speakers can do to make the car trip easier on deaf or hard of hearing people. 

1. Modify your environment

Conquering Communication Breakdowns In The Car Caused By Hearing Loss

One of the easiest ways to make the journey easier for people with hearing difficulties is to modify the car's environment. 

This can include simple things like: 

  • Rolling up the windows
  • Turning down the radio
  • Switching the radio off completely
  • Keeping the noise level to a minimum in the car 

You should also try to avoid having multiple conversations at the same time. For example, if the people in the back of the car are conversing and the two in the front are also talking, then the person with hearing loss will find it difficult to concentrate on their conversation.

2. Choose the quieter vehicle when riding together

If there are multiple vehicles to choose from on your road trip, then consider partnering up with the person or persons that you want to talk with. If you can get in the quieter vehicle with just the person you're talking to you'll be able to have a clearer conversation with them. 

Getting into a fully packed car, especially a seven-seater, will make it very difficult to listen to conversations. People will be talking at different times, and you'll also have people sitting further away from you. Limit the total number of people in the vehicle whenever possible.

3. Purchase discontinuous patterned tires

Your tires are one of the main culprits of noise while driving. Many factors cause noisy tires, including the tread pattern and rubber. So how can you reduce the sound your tires make? 

Discontinuous patterned tires are beneficial for reducing the noise surrounding your vehicle. They're specially designed tires that reduce road noise, making it easier to listen while having conversations in the car. 

Note: Tread patterns are necessary for your safety as they maintain grip in all conditions. Let an expert fit your tires to ensure they're safe to use. 

4. Make it easier for yourself to listen

If you're the listener, the best thing for you to do when you're getting in a car with others is to make it easier for you to listen. 

For example, you can make listening efforts much more manageable if you sit in the passenger seat. Not only can you listen to the driver a lot easier, but you can also pivot to talk with passengers in the back of the car. 

5. Don't be afraid to ask for help 

Don't be afraid to tell other passengers that you have hearing loss. This lets them know they'll have to speak up when there is road noise. Tell them that they should speak clearly, too, and if they're talking to you, they should angle their face towards you so you can see their expression or read their lips. 

If you didn't understand something, ask your speaker to rephrase what they said so you can piece together what they meant. 

Conquering Communication Breakdowns In The Car Caused By Hearing Loss

If you're still struggling to have clear conversations in the car, then consider using clip-on wireless microphones so the speaker can be understood over the loud distractions and disruptions outside. 

Tips for the listener when communicating in a car

As the listener (the individual with hearing loss), there are a lot of tricks you can use to your advantage to make communication in the car easier for you and everyone around you. 

Take a look at these tips and use them to make your car journey more manageable for someone deaf or hard of hearing. 

  • Pay attention to the conversation and use active listening 
  • Don't pretend like you've understood what has been said—it'll only confuse things later
  • Make sure you can see the speaker's face and ask them to look at you when they're talking (unless they're driving, of course)
  • Wait a short moment before asking them to repeat what they've said. If you have hearing loss, then it might take you a moment to process what you heard
  • Ask the speaker to pause between every sentence
  • Reduce background noise 
  • Avoid using “huh,” “what,” or “I didn't hear you.” Instead, "I didn't understand what you said because…." 
  • Ask people to repeat, rephrase, clarify, and highlight the topic of the conversation
  • Make sure the speaker gets your attention before they talk to you

We hope these listening tips have helped you devise a plan of action for your next car trip as a person with hearing difficulties. 

Tips for the speaker when communicating in the car

As the speaker or the communication partner for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, it is just as much your responsibility as it is theirs to create an environment that's easy to converse in. 

The car is one of the most difficult places to communicate as a deaf or hard-of-hearing person, but with these simple tips, you can make it easier for you both to communicate. 

  • If you're not driving, then face the person with hearing loss when you're speaking to make it easier for them
  • Be sure the lighting is in front of you when you speak. This allows a person with a hearing impairment to observe facial expressions, gestures, and lip and body movements that provide communication clues. 
  • Turn off the car radio when you're having a conversation
  • Avoid speaking while chewing food 
  • Don't cover your mouth with your hands
  • Speak slightly louder than normal but avoid shouting as it might distort your voice 
  • Avoid exaggerating sounds and speak normally
  • Let the person with hearing loss know the topic of discussion
  • Rephrase your statement into shorter, simpler sentences if you don't think it was understood

We hope these tips will help you make conversations in the car much more manageable for you and your listening partner. 

Want to learn more about how to improve your communication? Read our other blog posts about conquering communication breakdowns at home and on the phone

If you're interested in learning more about how to conquer communication breakdowns caused by hearing loss, then get in touch. We'd love to answer any questions you might have. 

If you think you or a loved one is struggling with hearing loss, schedule a hearing test at The Hearing Solution in Sacramento: Visit or call 916-646-2471.

Interested in learning more? Attend one of our regular hearing solution events to learn more about our unique approach to hearing loss or give us a call at 916-646-2471.

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