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3 Golden Rules

The 3 Golden Rules provide better communication outcomes for everyone with hearing loss. They improve communication if you have hearing aids, cochlear implants or no hearing devices. By following these simple rules, communication breakdowns would happen less often, hearing loss or no hearing loss. They make the difference between hearing and understanding.

A purple meme with a ring of gold that has leaves coming off it. White font. The 3 Golden Rules when talking to someone with hearing loss. Get their attention before speaking. Face them while talking. Be within 6 feet.

All 3 rules were considered a social grace but they have fallen by the wayside. We are distracted and multitasking. We are tired, hangry and have a lot on our plate these days. We could all learn to slow down and connect again, properly. The 3 Golden Rules require everyone to be present. With more intention, perhaps we will have less communication breakdowns in general.

For people who have hearing loss, these 3 rules are especially important. Let’s break them down from a hearing loss perspective.

Get My Attention 

First and foremost, get our attention before talking. We can’t hear well! If we don’t know you’re talking, we’ll walk right by. We won’t answer at all, or, we might answer wrong because we caught only part of the message. No matter what, if you don’t get our attention first, there’s a good chance you’ll be repeating. 

Green background. 
I'm not rude or stuck up.
I can't hear well.
Image of an outlined hand giving a little wave.
Get my attention by calling my name or giving me a little wave.

When people get our attention first, we can focus on you while you’re talking. Hearing is seeing for people with hearing loss. Communication has a visual component to it and the Hard of Hearing (HoH) depend on that element to fill in gaps.  It also gives us time to focus on you and what you may be about to say. We’re ready to hear you. 

How do you get our attention? Don’t shout, please. That puts everyone on edge. It could be saying our name. We hear our names called out most of the time. Give us a little wave or light touch (if the HoH person is okay with that). Flick the lights on and off. Then give us time to switch gears. We might be in the middle of something so give us the courtesy of coming to a place to stop…just like anyone else.  

Face Us

While talking, please face us the entire time you are talking. Again, we depend on the visual elements of communication. We rely on lipreading strategies, whether we know it or not which comes naturally, out of necessity.  Lipreading is not all lip shapes, it involves several strategies like body language, facial expressions, gestures and more. We watch all this to make sure what we are hearing matches what we are seeing. (Hint: the more animated people are while talking, the easier it is to understand them.)

green background
Image of two black outlined people with one having a gold crown and a dialog bubble above the head.
Facing a person with hearing loss gives them the visual elements of communication.

Because we have faulty/distorted hearing, this helps us fill in the gaps. We all read lips to some degree, even hearing people. That’s why things like the McGurk Effect throws everyone off. It’s more of an unconscious habit or skill. People with hearing loss learn to recognize the more commonly used word shapes. 

We need all the sound we can get. When you look at us while talking, it also gets the sound to come straight at us. Turning your head sends the sound another direction. Your voice is still there but it’s less clear now. Give us all the sound you can, this improves our understanding. (Hint: Also using a moderate pace, not too slow or fast, helps. Project a little. Enunciate, use clear speaking skills.)

Be Within 6 Feet

One more time; seeing is hearing! If you’re too far away, we don’t have the clear visuals we need to make communication work. We lose macro facial expressions and the lips, especially with any kind of vision loss. (A lot of us wear glasses too.) 

Green background. White font.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants hear best within 6 feet. It's the hearing "bubble". Everything inside the bubble is easier to understand. Outside the hearing bubble, it's more like noise.
A circle with an imagined radius of 6 feet. A white outline of person on the left and right are outside the circle. It says "noise" under them. Inside the circle is a hearing aid and one person. Under that person it says "understood."

Here’s another big reason to be within 6 feet: Hearing aids and cochlear implants work best within 6 feet. We might hear your voice from far away but chances are we won’t understand you.  Depending on the hearing loss and vision issues, it might need to be closer than that. Hearing devices have limits, who knew? It takes many of us several years to figure this out. Being too far away reduces the signal to noise ratio. To get the most out of hearing devices, get a little closer to improve communication.  

Uh oh! Are we invading personal space? That might be because there’s a lot of background noise and we are trying to hear you. Background noise further reduces the signal to noise ratio. Have we said hearing aids aren’t called hearing miracles for a reason? They help but they don’t replace true hearing. If hearing people are having trouble hearing in an environment, triple that (if not more) for people with hearing loss.   

Can you make the 3 Golden Rules a Habit?

If you are a hearing person frustrated with communication with your HoH, we hope this cleared up a few misconceptions. Even if your HoH is in denial and doesn’t wear hearing aids, this helps. Are you tired of repeating things? Follow these rules. It will help. Communication is a two way street. If you’re not doing your part (the 3 rules), we can’t do our part.  

Are you the HoH looking to use the 3 Golden Rules to improve communication? It’s a good idea to model the behavior you want others to adopt. Sometimes we yell out things from other rooms ourselves because, well, they can hear! What if they have a comment or question after we yell it out? If we aren’t following our own rules, what does that say about us?

Evaluate Communication Breakdowns

When communication breaks down, take a step back and evaluate what happened. Most likely, one or more of the 3 Golden Rules were not used. Sometimes breakdowns happen because we are hangry and not because we forgot to follow the rules/guidelines. We’re only human.

It takes it a little bit to make the 3 rules a habit. Habits don’t happen overnight. It takes practice and reminders. Keep a sense of humor, when you can. It helps. Think of it as a “Duh!” moment. Have patience, it does get better.  

3 golden rules for better communication. 
A crown with the hearing loss live logo. 
Get my attention, Face me and be within 6 feet.
Feel free to share this image with people in your life for better understanding of hearing loss communication needs.
Learn More with Hearing Loss LIVE!

The 3 Golden Rules improve our understanding. This post ties into our topic this month: Hearing VS Understanding post.

Take a look at our blog post and podcast on Communication Boundaries. Make the 3 Golden Rules a communication boundary.

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