Physiological Barriers to Communication

Definition of Physiological Barriers

Physiology is the state of human body and mind. Physiological barriers of communication occur due to the physical condition of sender or receiver which might even be physical disabilities. It includes sensory dysfunction and other physical dysfunctions. Effective communication requires proper functioning of the senses in both the sender and the receiver. Limitation of human body and mind adds up to the physiological barrier causing interruption in message from reaching its destination or having meaning.

Physiologically unwell

For example,  A person with short term memory loss is unable to convey the message after a while as he/she forgets the message and hence the communication fails.

Causes of Physiological Barriers

Deafness and Hearing Impairment

hearing device for people with Hearing Problem

A receiver with hearing impairment or hearing loss cannot receive audio message. The person also cannot talk with people face to face easily. If the hearing problem is not very severe, he/she might only hear some words and is unable to get the intended meaning out of the message. Similarly, if a sender who is hearing impaired sends a message, the sender won’t be able to get feedback. The communication is limited and thus, not effective as with people without hearing difficulties. Hearing problems can be hereditary, developmental or from other conditions. The person might have speech problems incase he/she had hearing problem since birth or small age. 

Blindness and Vision Impairment

A blind man crossing the street with help of a stick unaware of the traffic on the street

Use of eyes in communication is as important as other parts of body, as formation of message mostly happens by seeing. Loss of vision, vision impediment, myopia (short sightedness), hyper-metropia (long sightedness), blur vision, tunnel vision, etc. are some types of vision impairment. When people cannot see properly, their message is unclear and misses many descriptions. Also sender cannot predict the mood of the receiver or the body language so the communication is totally ineffective.

Speech Disorders

Speech problems are barriers to communication as speech is a tool for communication. There are many kinds of speech disorders like apraxia, cluttering, stuttering, dysarthria, muteness, etc. Some disorders affect fluency of communication whereas some disorders prevent communication altogether. Speech impediments like stuttering and stammering only affect clarity of the message. Whereas Apraxia is a speech disorder in which the parts of brain, which controls speech, does not work due to damage. Many other speech disorders similar to the ones mentioned above disrupt the communication process as they are not able to use proper speech to communicate.


Poor retention is a cause for physiological communication barrier as human memory is limited. Function of the brain is not to remember each and every information but only the ones that the brain thinks will be needed in future. And information in the memory is also not permanent. So it is lost with time. Retention is needed to store information and send true information across to receiver. Poor retention and forgetting information leads to breakdown of communication.

Selective Perception, Filtering and Alertness (Attention)

The physiological conditions dictate communication. Emotional trauma, shock, denial and such mental situations prevent brain from perceiving many things during that time. In such physiological conditions, perception and alertness towards message becomes very low. It also happens during any physical problems like fatigue and illness. Effective communication doesn't take place when the perception and interpretation is selective. When physiological condition of body and mind is not good, people do not want to talk about anything. For example, when a person has lost a close friend in a murder, the person might not want to talk about the incident with police because of the trauma he/she might be going through.

[Related Reading: Language Barriers to Communication]

Physical Condition

A sick boy lying in bed unable to communicate with the lady beside his bed

Physical condition of body and mind such as pain, disease and sickness changes contents of communication and process used to send any message. Similarly, diseases and infections might affect vital organs needed for communication. Fatigue and stress are also physiological conditions which affect communication flow and act as a barrier. For example, a person having flu is not able to talk for hours like a person without any physiological ailment. Another example is a person with neurological condition of paralysis, in which the person cannot express even a word but can have some physical ways of expression as tears which is not very effective.

Other physical disabilities also interferes with communication like problem with hands does not let a person write and type. Physiological barriers need medical treatments, therapies or corrective aids to help make effective communication.

[Related Reading: Physical Barriers to Communication]