Supportive care for people who need it

Did you know that in Australia:

  • around 3.6 million people suffer from hearing loss
  • more than 1.3 million people live with a hearing condition that could have been prevented

The most common causes of hearing loss are age-related and excessive exposure to loud noise. Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise is preventable. One study suggests 37% of Australians have noise related ear damage.

In adults, research suggests that untreated hearing loss may:

  • increase the risk of memory loss
  • increase the risk of depression

There are a number of causes of hearing loss including congenital or early onset childhood hearing loss, chronic middle ear infection, noise induced hearing loss, hearing impairment associated with ageing and drugs that damage the inner ear. It is important to get a diagnosis so that reversible causes are treated and measures can be taken to prevent further damage where possible. There is an increasing range of hearing devices coming available to use. However, even with a hearing aid communicating can be difficult but there are measures that we can all take to assist with communication to a person affected by hearing loss.

Tips for communicating with a person with hearing loss

A person with a hearing loss will struggle to hear at times, even with a hearing device. This is normal and to be expected – a hearing device can help a person, but it cannot cure the underlying hearing loss. Your understanding and consideration of this will help them a great deal.

Try not to get frustrated if somebody can’t hear you – they are asking you to repeat yourself because they value what you have to say.

Speak clearly and don’t shout

Shouting will make your voice distorted and hard to understand. Instead, speak clearly and if necessary, slightly slower than normal. If you do need to raise your voice, project your voice the way you would if you were speaking to a person on the other side of the room. This usually sounds clearer than shouting.

Face the person

When talking to a person who has a hearing loss, make sure you face them. This is helpful because they can watch your face for extra clues about what you are saying, and the volume of your voice will be louder when you are looking at them.

Try not to cover or hold objects in front of your mouth, as this will make it hard for a person with a hearing loss to see and read your lips.

Reduce the distance between you and the person

The ideal listening distance for a hearing-impaired person is less than two meters from the speaker. Avoid talking to a person with a hearing loss from a different room.

Reduce background noise

Reduce background noise if you can – turn off the radio or television, close the door leading onto a busy street, pick a quieter restaurant to dine in.

Rephrase the sentence

Rephrase what you are saying if you need to. If a person with a hearing loss asks you to repeat something you said, repeat it once – if they still cannot understand you, think of a different way to say the same thing. This is something most people will naturally do, even for those with normal hearing.

National Relay Service

If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment or talking to someone who is, you can use the National Relay Service to access any of the department’s contact phone numbers. The service is available 24 hours a day from anywhere in Australia.

The number to call is 1300 555 727.