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Communication Strategies: On the Phone

Communicating on the phone can be challenging. And if hearing loss is part of the picture, it can be extra frustrating. The good news is, like perfecting how to communicate at home or in the car, you can practice how to communicate on the phone too, making the experience better for all involved! Let’s go over listener, speaker, environmental, and technology tips that will lead you to success!

The questions you ask while on the phone will make a huge difference in the flow of your conversation. If you miss a word or two of a sentence, don’t say, “What?” As we’ve discussed, it isn’t effective. Instead, repeat back what you think you heard. For example, “Did you say you’ll be here at 7:00?” This way your speaker can answer with a simple “Yes” or “No” which are words that are easy to understand while communicating on the phone.

Challenge yourself to eliminate the question “what?” from all phone conversations. Ask your speaker to help you with this by pointing out when you say these words. Replace them with clarifying questions such as “Can you please rephrase that?

It can be quite difficult for people with hearing loss to hear clearly on the phone because they cannot see the speaker’s face. For this reason, it is critical for the speaker to project his or her voice and to enunciate clearly. Another useful communication repair strategy is to rephrase what you’ve said rather than repeating the same words over again.

Practice: Sometimes we tend to put less effort into speaking clearly to those closest to us. This often happens when we talk to friends and family members over the phone. Try speaking clearly to your loved ones when communicating on the phone, just as you would to your doctor. If your loved one misses what you’ve said, try rephrasing rather than getting frustrated and raising your voice.

Hearing Aid Tip
If you wear BTE (Behind the Ear) hearing aids, remember that your hearing aid microphone is on top of your ear. If you want the hearing aid to amplify sound coming from the phone, you must hold the phone up a bit higher so that the phone’s speaker is closer to the hearing aid. Alternatively, the speaker phone might work well so that you can hear the sound in both ears.

For those of you communicating with someone experiencing hearing loss:

While talking on the phone with a friend or family member who has hearing loss, choose your favorite chair and stay in that chair throughout the conversation. Put your entire focus on that phone call. This will help you to keep the phone’s receiver close to your mouth. Avoid multi-tasking which can cause the phone to move away from your mouth.  If you must use a Bluetooth device, make sure it is held close to your mouth and that there are no distracting sounds in the background.

Hearing Aid Tip
If you get feedback (squeaking from your hearing aid) when you hold the phone up to your ear, there’s a solution! Have your hearing care provider create a special program that is tailored specifically for telephone use. There are several great options when it comes to using the telephone with your hearing aids, so ask your hearing care provider which option is right for you.

Your environment

Communicating on the phone successfully depends on how much noise is in your environment. Luckily, you are in total control of this variable. It just takes a little planning and a lot of awareness.

  • Go to a quiet place to conduct your phone call
  • Don’t multi-task while talking on the phone
  • Focus on the conversation and put all of your effort into speaking clearly and listening actively

Practice: The next time you start to make a phone call, take a moment to observe your environment. Remove any extra noise (for example, turn the TV off), or go to a room that is quiet. If you hear lots of extraneous noise coming from the other end of the line, say something about it! Ask your communication partner to:

  • Put the phone closer to his or her mouth
  • Stop using the speaker phone
  • To move to a quiet location so that you can hear his or her voice more clearly
Hearing Aid Tip
It takes time and practice to adjust to using your hearing aids while talking on the phone. It is critical that you stick with it! Don’t give up and remove your hearing aid. Not only will this prevent you from experiencing the great benefits that hearing aids provide while communicating on the phone, but it is also the most common way hearing aids are lost or damaged: the hearing aid is placed on the counter during the phone call, it gets knocked off the counter, and then it gets lost, stepped on, or eaten by the family pet! Keep that hearing aid in your ear for all phone calls!

Technology FTW (for the win)

Today’s cellular phones are all equipped with Bluetooth technology that allows your phone to connect to wireless headphones, earbuds, and other devices. It also allows your phone to connect wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids! Depending on the type of hearing aid, your phone will either connect directly to the hearing aids or it will connect to a streaming device. That streaming device then sends the phone signal to your hearing aids. Both streaming methods work wonderfully.

Practice: Not only can your phone calls be streamed from your phone into your hearing aids, but other sounds can as well. Music, videos, and podcasts can all be heard directly in your hearing aids. You’ll be amazed how clear the sound is and how convenient it is to have hands-free calling. If you aren’t sure if your hearing aids are equipped with this technology, return to your hearing care provider and ask about your options. If you are considering purchasing new hearing aids, choose a system that includes this amazing feature. The world is going wireless, so you might as well hop on board!

Hearing Aid Tip
There are several different types of wireless streamers available today. Some hang around your neck, others clip to your shirt, and others can be kept in your pocket. There are even hearing aids available that don’t require a streaming device. In this case, the smart phone acts as the streamer, and sends the signal directly into your hearing aids. In all cases, the settings for that sound input can be adjusted independently of the other hearing aid settings. So if the sound coming from the phone isn’t just right, be sure to tell your hearing care provider so he or she can make the necessary adjustments to that program in your hearing aids.

What about landlines?

Technology Tip

For landline telephones, the oldest and arguably the best technology option is the telecoil, or t-coil. This is a tiny metal coil inside your hearing aid that picks up electromagnetic energy (the kind that is emitted by landline phones). Most hearing aids come standard with a t-coil program that can be accessed by your hearing care provider.


If you have a t-coil (telephone) program in your hearing aids, be sure to use it for every phone call. It takes some practice to know exactly how and where to hold the phone, and you may need to return to your hearing care provider for adjustments to the telephone program if it isn’t loud enough or if you hear a buzzing sound in the background. But once you get it adjusted correctly, you’ll love it!

Hearing Aid Tip

The t-coil setting can be accessed by pressing a button on the hearing aid or on a remote control. Some hearing aids even switch automatically to the phone setting when a landline phone is held up next to them. If you don’t have a t-coil in your hearing aids, the speaker phone is often a good option for landline phones.

You may think communicating on the phone is too much of a hassle, but we promise that with a little practice you’ll find it to be far less cumbersome! Getting your hearing aids working just right will take some adjustments, so remember to be patient. Of course, we are always here to help. Give us a call or set up an appointment and we’ll get you set up in no time!

We’ve got tips for all kinds of scenarios – use the links below for:
– Communication strategies in the car.
– Communication strategies while dining out.
– Communication strategies for watching TV.

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