Communication Strategies For Telephone Use


Whether you are a hearing aid user or not, hearing on the telephone when you have a hearing loss can be very challenging.  This often leads to misunderstanding and frustration with the caller or the inability to have a conversation on the telephone at all.  Below are some strategies you can use that may help resolve difficulties when using the telephone. 

1.  Turn off background noise – When possible, turn off any competing noises in your environment (e.g., TV, dishwasher, etc.)

2.  Caller ID – Know who is calling, either by using caller ID or by asking the caller.

3.  Context – Know what the conversation is going to be about.  It is helpful to ask the caller what the subject matter of the conversation is regarding (e.g., doctor's appointment) that way you can use the context of the conversation to "fill in the blanks."

4.  Make caller aware of your hearing loss – Do not be afraid to let the caller know that you have difficulty hearing and express to him that you will need accommodations to make this conversation successful. 

5.  Ask to REPEAT and REPHRASE – Do not be afraid to ask the caller to repeat himself or to rephrase his/her message.  Refrain from saying "what" and let the caller know what part of the message you were able to understand (e.g., "I think you said something about my doctor?").

6.  Spell Information – Ask the caller to spell a word or a number if you are having difficulty understanding; this is especially helpful after the caller has already repeated himself.

7.  Count up for understanding numbers – Numbers have no context; therefore, it is very difficult to distinguish different numbers.  Ask the caller to count up to the number he/she is trying to tell you. 

8.  YES or NO Answers – Ask the caller to answer your questions with a Yes or a No; this is easier to understand rather than trying to determine the answer through a sentence if you are having trouble hearing or understanding the caller.

9.  Repeat what the caller said – Repeat the information that you received back to the caller in order to confirm that you understood him.  "My appointment is confirmed for Tuesday October 28th at 9:00 am correct?" 

 An amplified telephone designed for hearing impaired individuals is always useful.  If you are a Missouri Resident, have telephone service in your home, and have income of $60,000 or less, you qualify for a State provided phone.  Contact the Delta Center for Independent Living.  If you do not meet these qualifications, your audiologist can help you purchase an amplified telephone.   

 There are many Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) that can work with your hearing aids to improve your telephone use as well. Taking advantage of a T-Coil setting on your hearing aid is the easiest and least expensive option.  But you can also use devices such as Bluetooth Streamers and/or NeckLoops.   See our previous blogs regarding these devices or speak with your audiologist. 



Nesgaard Pedersen and Kirkwood.  "Speech Intelligibility Benefits of Assisted Telephone Listening Methods". The Hearing Review.  June 2014.