Hearing loss is one of the most common medical conditions that people navigate today. Impacting nearly 1 in 5 people who have some degree of impaired hearing, hearing loss results in a reduced ability to absorb and process sound. This is most often treated with hearing aids, electronic devices designed to collect and amplify sound, providing significant support. Wearing hearing aids, which can transform hearing health, requires readjusting to this new way of hearing and communicating. This takes time and patience as your auditory system learns a new technology. There are useful strategies you can use to help with this adjustment and with engaging in effective communication.
Face the Speaker
Visibility is a useful way to make conversations more accessible for people with hearing loss. This really starts by grabbing the person’s attention before speaking so that they are ready for the conversation. Facing the person who is speaking allows people to better navigate conversations in a few key ways. Being able to see a person’s mouth helps with lipreading and identifying individual words which is a common strategy people use. Additionally, seeing other nonverbal cues including facial expressions and gestures provides helpful context for what people are saying.
Reduce Background Noise
A significant barrier to hearing clearly and effectively communicating is background noise. Background noise provides even more sound for the brain to process at the same time the auditory system is processing speech. This competing sound can result in being unable to hear well, confusion, and cognitive overload which can be an exhausting experience! Do what you can to reduce background noise which can include powering off sources of sound (television, speaker, laptop, etc.), not using household appliances while having conversations, rolling up car windows etc. Also, avoid environments that are loud – restaurants, noisy cafes – especially during peak hours and opt for quieter settings to have conversations.
People can make the mistake of projecting their voice and feeling like they need to speak more loudly (or slowly) to be heard. But this is not necessarily helpful or effective!
It is important for people to speak with their normal voice at the appropriate volume and focus on speaking clearly. This means enunciating words, pacing yourself evenly, and taking your time to communicate.
Another way communication can be challenging is if people are multitasking! It is important for people, particularly with hearing loss, to focus on what is being communicated. This involves paying attention to verbal and nonverbal cues which requires being fully present and aware. Multitasking can be distracting and can create more noise than necessary. Avoid doing things like cooking, cleaning, texting while having conversations with others.
Rephrase vs. Repeat
Hearing loss looks different for everyone. People can struggle with specific sounds and volumes. So rather than repeating using the exact same words, it is more useful to rephrase something that is causing confusion.
Checking-in throughout the conversation is a great way to ensure that people are understanding what is being communicated. There are a variety of ways to do this including simply asking if the other person needs clarification, if the way you are speaking is accessible, and reminding them to let you know if you need to make adjustments.
Share Communication Strategies
With practice, you become an expert in managing your hearing loss and navigating conversations with ease. This involves you knowing the specific strategies that maximize your hearing and comfort during conversations. Sharing this information with others is such a valuable way to advocate for your hearing needs and invite others to create the conditions for an accessible conversation. Always remember that effective communication requires everyone’s participation. This means that it is not the sole responsibility of the person with hearing loss to ensure that communication is easy. Sharing communication tips with family and friends allows them to meet your needs and their own needs because they want to be understood too! This creates an easeful engagement that is more pleasant for everyone involved.
Implementing these strategies can strengthen communication which is integral to daily life. This can improve relationships, social life, managing responsibilities, and overall health.
If you have experienced changes in your hearing, it is important to schedule a hearing test. Contact us today to make an appointment!