Chronicle of a deaf audiologist

What to do if someone talks too fast (and you have hearing loss)

When you have hearing loss, non-verbal language can be an important way to signal to others that they are talking too fast. My non-verbal language in this short is not so effective. It does not give the other person any information about what they can do to make things better. It’s only 10 seconds — please watch and then I’ll give you some suggestions to make it better below.


Here’s what we can do to make it better:

1. Put your hand up in a gesture to stop. I did that in the short, but not firmly enough. Then say, “Stop. Can you please slow down?” Do it as soon as possible. If you let too much time pass by, it becomes awkward.

2. Some people speed up again before too long. Try modelling. How clearly do YOU speak? Slow down a little yourself. The person you are interacting with may mirror you and slow down also.

We unconsciously (and unintentionally) mimic the person we are interacting with — this is called the chameleon effect.

We are chameleons when it comes to rate of speech, accents, and just about any form of behaviour. So, if someone is talking too fast, slow down your own speech. Crisp up your consonants. Say each word in the sentence (don’t let your words run together). Pause in between sentences. When the chameleon effect kicks in, they’ll also slow down and crisp up. See for more information.


  • Photo credit:  © Alan Fortune

    Sandra Vandenhoff

    Dr. Sandra Vandenhoff is an audiologist with hearing loss, founder of HEARa, Hearing Rehabilitation teacher, and Canadian author, who does not remember saying on her first day of wearing hearing aids: "Mom, I can hear my shoelaces!"

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