Conquering Communication Breakdowns On The Phone Caused by Hearing Loss

Conquering Communication Breakdowns On The Phone Caused by Hearing Loss

There’s nothing worse than having a phone call and struggling to communicate with the person on the other end of the line. Phone calls are one of the most difficult places for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate. 

Not only do you have to communicate without any physical cues, but you also have to rely on the stability of your connection. If the phone cuts out on a vital detail of the conversation then you might not be able to understand what the other person has said. 

When you’re on the phone in public there can be a lot of background noises and distractions that make phone calls incredibly difficult for people with hearing loss. Being on the phone at home can be under the same constraints, except you have a bit more control over your environment. 

But how can you improve communication over the phone as a person with hearing loss? And how do you, as a speaker, make it easier for your communication partner to listen to what you’re saying without having communication breakdowns? 

Today we’re going to go through some detailed tips on how to communicate over the phone when you have hearing loss and how to avoid communication breakdowns with your listening partner. 

How to improve communication over the phone if you’re deaf or hard of hearing 

Conquering Communication Breakdowns On The Phone Caused by Hearing Loss

It can be challenging to figure out what to do to improve your communication over the phone when you have hearing loss. But there are a few things you can do to make it easier for you and your communication partner. 

Here are five tips for improving communication over the phone if you're deaf or hard of hearing. 

1. Turn off background noise where possible 

Phone calls will be much easier for you and your communication partner if you eliminate as much background noise as possible. 

If you're on a landline at home, this means switching off your:

  • TV
  • Dishwasher
  • Dryer
  • Radio
  • Washing machine

If you're out and about and need to take a call, ensure you're away from distractions. Move to a quiet room or quiet area to take the call so you can listen in and follow along more closely. 

For some people with hearing loss, it's easier to have a phone call if the phone is on loudspeaker. This is a personal preference, so do whichever way serves you and your listening. 

Note: Don't use loudspeaker while in the car. The sound of traffic and driving will make it hard for your listener to understand what you are saying. 

Conquering Communication Breakdowns On The Phone Caused by Hearing Loss

2. Ensure the connection is stable

If your connection is bad, there's no point in trying to have a call with a family member or friend. A broken connection means the call might cut out now and then, leaving you with half of the conversation. 

Make sure you and your communication partner have a good signal before making a call so you can have a long conversation without any loss in connection. 

3. Use vocal cues 

As the speaker, it's your job to help make listening easier for your listening partner. This can be quite hard over the phone as you can't use expressions or gestures to indicate what you're talking about. But, you can use vocal cues. 

Vocal cues are essential when talking about anything that involves letters or numbers. For example, if you're spelling out a word, indicate what letter you're using with a cue like “C for Charlie.” For numbers, say something along the lines of “nine, as in the number before ten.” 

If your listener can't understand you, rephrase your vocal cue instead of repeating it. 

4. Don't be afraid to ask the speaker to rephrase

If you, as the listener, didn't understand what your communication partner was saying, don't be afraid to ask them to rephrase what they said. 

This will make it easier for you to understand the conversation and minimize communication problems with your partner. 

5. Ask questions

Questions are so important for successfully getting through a phone conversation as a person who is deaf or hard of hearing. 

Asking simple yes and no questions will allow you to clarify something you heard quickly. You can also repeat back what you think you heard to double-check with the speaker. This is really helpful when trying to take down numbers or letters.

Tips for the listener when communicating over the phone

You can do a lot as the listener to make communicating over the phone as easy as possible for your communication partner.  

There are a few things you should remember while conversing as an individual with hearing loss when it comes to phone calls. Here are a few simple tips to make sure you're doing everything possible to eliminate communication issues during phone conversations:

  • Relearn the trick of concentration
  • Pay attention and practice active listening 
  • Avoid pretending you've understood what the speaker just said, as it will only confuse things later
  • Wait a millisecond before asking for repetition because if you have hearing loss, it sometimes takes longer to process what you've just heard
  • Ask the speaker to pause after saying a sentence so you can catch up with what has been said 
  • Reduce background noise when possible 
  • Avoid reverberant or echoey rooms if possible
  • Avoid using “huh,” “what,” or “I didn't hear you.” Instead, "I didn't understand what you said because…." 
  • Practice asking people for help. Don't be afraid to ask for clarification or for them to rephrase or repeat what they just said

We hope these listener-specific tips will help you have clearer conversations with your communication partner during phone conversations. 

Conquering Communication Breakdowns On The Phone Caused by Hearing Loss

Tips for the speaker when communicating over the phone

As the speaker, you're a partner for the individual with hearing loss. It's just as much your responsibility as the listener to make the phone call as easy as possible. 

Here are some simple tips to remember as the speaker when conversing over the phone with a person with hearing loss. 

  • Turn off the radio or television
  • Avoid speaking while chewing food 
  • Don't shout, as shouting may distort your speech but do try to talk louder than normal
  • Don't exaggerate your sounds
  • Let the listener know what the topic is before you start the conversation
  • Rephrase your statement into shorter, more straightforward sentences if you weren't understood
  • Avoid speaking over the phone in noisy situations or in crowded rooms

We hope these tips help you and your listening partner figure out how to communicate better during phone conversations. 

If you’d like to learn more tips about avoiding communication breakdowns, then look at our blogs about communication breakdowns at home and in the car. 

If you're interested in learning more about how to conquer communication breakdowns caused by hearing loss, get in touch with us. We'd love to answer your questions. 

If you think you or a loved one is deaf or hard of hearing, schedule a hearing test with our team today to ensure they get the best help they can. Schedule a Hearing Test: Click Here 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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