Communication is a two way street. It requires the efforts of all people involved in the conversation. When a patient with hearing loss utilizes hearing aids along with or independently of other assistive technologies, it is crucial that others involved in the communication process understand and use good communication strategies. At times, communication for normal hearing people is difficult, depending on the environment and situation. When you compound the listening situation with a hearing loss, it can become extremely frustrating for the hard of hearing to communicate effectively. While there are a variety of assistive listening devices available, it is most important that proper communication techniques be practiced in order to maximize hearing and listening performance.
A noisy environment presents the most difficulty for the hard of hearing; therefore, if possible, achieve a quiet listening environment for conversing; environments such as busy restaurants, concerts and sporting events are the most challenging. Focus your attention on the speaker and look for any visual cue, expressions or body language that could compliment your auditory cues. Lip reading is a very effective and helpful tactic but can be difficult for some. It is recommended to be proactive and be an advocate for yourself as opposed to trying to ignore or disguise your hearing loss. If given the chance to inform or educate others about hearing loss, most people will understand and utilize the strategies that are taught. If you admit your loss and are proactive, the speaker will not assume that it is a lack of paying attention when you miss some of the conversation. Try to be specific about what you missed in conversation by repeating what you did hear instead of immediately responding with “huh?” or “what?” Most importantly, wear your hearing aids!
Since hearing aids alone may not allow a person with hearing loss to successfully communicate in all listening situations, friends and family members may want to follow a few simple suggestions:
Face the person you are speaking to and get their attention before talking. It is crucial to have the person’s attention so they can anticipate conversation.
Speak clearly, naturally and at a moderate pace. Loud and overbearing speech is not always necessary, yet clear and consistent speech is better understood.
Maintain eye contact and refrain from placing your hands around your face. As previously stated, lip reading and body language are major contributors to better hearing.
Rephrase rather than repeat. If the listener is experiencing difficulty understanding something that you said, find a different way of saying it. If the listener did not understand the words the first time, it is very likely that they will not understand it a second time, so rephrasing rather than repeating tends to be more effective.
Avoid noisy areas during conversation, if possible. Try turning off the radio or television and move to a quiet space away from the noise source. When going to a restaurant or making dinner reservations, request a table away from the kitchen, service station, large parties or any music source.
Utilize these strategies and you will be creating a more ideal and relaxing environment that will definitely benefit everyone involved.