Do you know of someone who wears hearing aids and yet you still find that it is difficult to communicate with them?
Not only can it be very frustrating for the hearing aid user, but it can also be frustrating for caring family and friends. A common misunderstanding is that hearing aids are the cure-all for hearing needs. Realistically speaking, improving communication involves understanding how much hearing one has as well as the prescribed hearing aids, and then setting realistic expectations.
For the caregiver, the approach to understanding hearing loss and the related expectations will be different. The benefits of amplification are different for each person and will vary significantly from person to person. As you know, communication is always a two-way street. And, both the hearing aid user and the listener must fully participate. It takes contributions from both to improve communication, and it is most effective to employ several complementary strategies, such as:
Gaining Attention: Before you begin speaking, be sure to get the listener’s attention by speaking their name and/or touching their arm or shoulder. If the person with hearing loss hears better from one ear, move to that side.
Maintaining Eye Contact: Closely watch the listeners face. Make sure you keep eye contact and do not cover your mouth when speaking. Fifty percent of the English language is visible on the lips, which makes visual cues very important in communication.
Speaking Naturally: Be certain to use clear speech. This involves speaking more slowly, with more precise pronunciation, a little more volume, and frequent pauses between key phrases. Do not shout or speak with exaggeration; doing so can distort words. Speak at a normal rate and use pauses rather than slow speech to give the person time to process what you are saying. The accommodations you make will enable the conversation to flow more easily.
Rephrasing rather than Repeating: If the listener is having difficulty understanding you, try to rephrase the sentence. If the listener did not understand what you said the first time, they most likely will not understand you the second time.
Rearranging your Home: Moving your location to a different piece of furniture to gain a full-face view may positively promote easier conversation. Also, having better lighting to help see the listener’s face when conversing. Carpeting vs hardwood floors can help to absorb distracting noise.
Reducing Background Noise: Try to reduce background noise when conversing. Turn off the television or radio, and ask to sit at a table away from the kitchen/server stations while out at a restaurant.
Going easy on yourself: Remind yourself that even though communication may be difficult, it is more difficult for the hearing impaired. Be patient and use the communication strategies to your advantage!
- Medwetsky L. Hearing Loss. In: Duthie: Practice of Geriatrics, 4th ed. Saunders; An Imprint of Elsevier; 2007 (23):294-295. Cleveland
- Audiologic (Hearing) Rehabilitation. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
- Kricos, Patricia B., Ph.D. “Communication Strategies.” Better Hearing Institute