Communicating with each other in our modern world can be a challenge at the best of times. Ironically, in this “information age”, we often forget about good basic communication skills when dealing with one another. Good communication habits are especially important when speaking to someone with a hearing loss. Even those with a mild hearing loss will struggle to some degree if others begin speaking too quickly or from the next room. Here are some easy to remember tips to help you communicate more effectively.
MAKE SURE YOUR FACE CAN BE SEEN CLEARLY. Many sounds of speech are visible on the lips. Also facial expressions communicate a lot so don’t have your head buried in a menu when talking.
DON’T SHOUT. You can raise the volume of your voice slightly but it’s more important that you project your voice and enunciate clearly.
GET THE ATTENTION OF THE PERSON BEFORE YOU START SPEAKING TO THEM. A hearing impaired person will be less likely to miss anything if they can focus on you.
DON’T TALK NEXT TO DISTRACTING NOISE. Be aware that noise in the environment can make understanding very difficult. Turn off noise sources or move to a quieter area if possible.
REPHRASE RATHER THAN REPEAT. If they didn’t catch what you said the first time, often using different words will be easier to understand.
BE PATIENT. People can be under a lot of stress when they’re straining to hear. Stay relaxed and keep a positive, friendly face. If you find the person is frequently asking you to repeat, try slowing down the pace of the conversation.
ENCOURAGE THE PERSON TO SEEK HELP. If they haven’t had their hearing assessed recently, try to encourage them to see a specialist. A hearing test should be part of any regular health evaluation. If you know someone who has tried hearing aids but has stuffed them in a drawer, try to convince them to go back to their dispenser to have the aids readjusted. It can sometimes take several visits to achieve a comfortable fit and optimal sound quality.
It’s important to remember that many people feel embarrassed about their hearing loss and may pretend to understand when in fact they did not. Because the onset of hearing loss is often gradual, people may not even be aware they have a hearing loss at all. All they may know is that people around them sound like they’re mumbling. Over time, people can find themselves avoiding social situations and losing interest in activities they once enjoyed. Often it’s up to friends and family to recognize the signs of hearing loss and help that person out.