Five Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Understood

Over the past 5 years, I have enjoyed working with individuals with hearing loss. Though their hearing loss varies in degree, there are several reoccurring themes shared by many of my patients. Here are 5 things people with hearing loss wish you understood:

  1. Provide context. My brain needs help filling in the gaps. For example, if you walk up to me and say “We need milk, eggs, and cheese” I might respond with “What about the Chinese?” However, had you initially mentioned that you would like to discuss our grocery list, I could have done a much better job filling in the gaps of what I heard. It is very important to remember that hearing is not the same as understanding.
  2. Look at me! Even with hearing aids or other hearing technology, I still rely heavily on lip reading and other visual cues such as your facial expressions and your body language. Talking to me from another room or when you are turned away from me is very challenging.
  3. Hearing aids don’t mean I can hear at 100%. Hearing aids are not like glasses. Even with hearing aids, I am still not going to hear 100% of what’s around me. Understanding is especially difficult when we are surrounded by competing noise (e.g., restaurants).
  4. Get my attention. Multi-tasking is very difficult when I have to exert so much extra effort just to follow the conversation. I am much more likely to follow the conversation if you tap my arm to get my attention and wait until I stop what I am doing to pay attention to you.
  5. Be patient with me. I don’t enjoy having to ask you to repeat yourself. I don’t like when you look at me with frustration or annoyance. Please try to understand that I am not ignoring you, I just didn’t hear or understand you. When people get annoyed or frustrated with me, I tend to retreat and simply nod in agreement or avoid social situations altogether. Hearing loss can make communication frustrating for all parties involved. Remembering these simple strategies can make the process much easier for everyone.

Allyson Womack Pratka, Au.D


Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery: Audiology Clinic