Latest posts by Debra Swift, BC-HIS (see all)
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If someone you know struggles with hearing loss, you know that conversations don’t always go as planned. Hearing loss makes listening and comprehension challenging, especially if someone isn’t using assistive technology like hearing aids to help improve their hearing. While you may be frustrated at first, working around hearing loss is a good way to make sure you both get the most out of an interaction. Here are a few tips for better communication that accommodates hearing loss.
Ask Them How You Can Accommodate Their Hearing
We’re going to give you a few good general tips for improving communication over hearing loss, but the first and best way to begin is by asking someone if there are specific ways you can help them hear you better. People with hearing loss may want to face you and read your lips as you speak, or have a better hearing ear, or want to talk near a wall to help them distinguish your conversation from room noise. Working with someone’s needs helps you both, and improves their ability to engage in conversation.
Bringing up the best way to help them hear doesn’t have to involve discussing hearing loss. If someone is struggling in a conversation, asking you to repeat things often or responding incongruously, simply ask them if there are ways you can help them hear you better. Even if the person you are talking with has not disclosed their hearing loss to you, asking what helps them can get a discussion back on track.
Many people are animated conversationalists, gesturing and moving along with their speech. Big conversations like meetings or dinner parties mean that people are constantly turning different directions as they speak to different people. Our hearing involves an innate sense of directionality that our brain calibrates from the tiny differences in the amount of time it takes sound to reach each ear individually. The directionality of sound helps us follow a complex conversation – it can also be one of the most frustrating obstacles for people with hearing loss.
If you know someone deals with hearing issues, speak either directly towards their face or ear. Refrain from turning your head away while you talk. If the person with hearing loss can read lips, speaking directly towards them can help their comprehension greatly.
In a big group situation, try to always talk towards the person with hearing difficulty, even as you address others in the room. When responding to people, saying their name in your reply offers a cue that can help someone with hearing issues follow where the conversation is going. When you are planning a seated event, seat people with hearing loss in positions that can help them navigate sound. Ideally, seats that are farthest away from noise or clatter work best, as well as seats backed by a wall or curtain.
Get the Details in Writing
If you are using a conversation to go over detailed information, back up what you say with written notes. Luckily, our modern world offers plenty of tech assistance on this. Between email, text messaging and a good old paper notepad, there are plenty of easy ways to communicate that take some of the heavy lifting off of hearing.
When there are details you need to convey, say them and also write or text them to the person you are speaking with. Doing so helps prevent confusion and also acts as an easy reminder about key components of your conversation. Addresses, phone numbers, things they’ll need to remember or reference later are all good things to jot down as you talk.
Cool and Collected
Sometimes having to repeat yourself in conversation can wear down your patience, but instead of getting irked, work to make your conversation more legible. Hearing loss is incredibly common, so chances are you know quite a few people who deal with hearing loss, even some who may not be admitting it to themselves yet. While getting annoyed at someone’s hearing loss may be your impulse it can stymie conversation, keeping calm and working towards clearer communication benefits you and your listener and can make for a more positive outcome.
Start with these tips, speak clearly, and augment your conversations with other communication methods like texting or email and you can help accommodate for the hearing loss of those around you no matter the situation.
Visit Us at Swift Audiology
If you believe that you – or a loved one – might be experiencing hearing loss, it is important to seek treatment. Treating hearing loss, often with the use of hearing aids, helps improve communication. To schedule a hearing test and consultation, contact us at Swift Audiology today!