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5 Communication Strategies for Hearing Loss
If you have a friend or family member who experiences hearing loss, refining the way that you communicate with them can be beneficial to you both. With a few small changes, you will be able to communicate clearly and effectively, helping to bolster the strength of your relationship with the person in question and enjoy their company. When you make these changes, the life of your loved one will also be improved; communicating with you will be easier and less stressful, which in turn allows them to forge strong social connections and avoid the isolation that hearing loss can sometimes cause.
So, whether you are communicating with a loved one who has a hearing aid fitted, or someone you suspect has hearing loss but has not formally been diagnosed with the condition by an audiologist, here are five key strategies to keep in mind:
1. Choose quiet locations to talk in wherever possible
For anyone experiencing hearing loss, background noise can be a real challenge, even if they are wearing hearing aids. As a result, it’s usually best to always try to converse with your loved one in a quiet environment; turn TVs and radios off, close windows if traffic noise is a problem, and seek quieter spaces – such as parks – when out and about. It’s always preferable to avoid loud background noise altogether rather than attempting to raise your voice to talk over it.
2. Make sure your face and mouth can be easily seen
People with hearing loss tend to rely on facial cues – such as smiles, expressions, and lip movements – to assist them in understanding speech. To make this simpler for them, ensure that your face and mouth are clearly visible when speaking; always face them when you speak, and avoid covering your mouth with your hands. In addition, it’s usually preferable to avoid eating or drinking when conversing with someone with hearing loss; if you are dining out, eat or drink when the other person is speaking and then stop when it is time to give your reply.
3. Modify the way you speak
When speaking to someone with hearing loss, it seems natural to want to talk as loudly as possible to make sure that they can hear you. However, simply increasing the volume of your speech can be counterproductive; as the volume increases, clarity is lost – similar to how turning the volume up on a TV will cause the sound to become more muffled and indistinct. However, it is nevertheless helpful to modify somewhat the way you speak when conversing with someone with hearing loss. Primarily, your goal should be clarity rather than increased volume; use shorter sentences, fewer complex words, talk a little slower than you usually would – but not noticeably slowly, just slower – and try to enunciate each word carefully.
4. Reinforce important details of the conversation in writing
If, when speaking to a loved one with hearing loss, you make arrangements – such as the date of the next time you will meet or travel plans for a vacation – then it’s always helpful to affirm these in writing when the conversation is finished. For people with hearing loss, conversations can be draining and tiring, which can make retaining important information a little more complicated; writing things down can thus be reassuring, both for them and for you.
5. Gauge the person’s reactions throughout the conversation
When you speak to a person with hearing loss, watch their reactions closely – as this will likely tell you all you need to know about how well you are being understood. If you notice that your loved one appears confused at any point – they may furrow their brow or frown – then this is a sign that they might be finding the conversation challenging, and you may need to make further amendments to ensure you are understood. In particular, be cautious for signs that someone’s attention has slipped; people with hearing loss can find a conversation so strenuous and difficult to follow that keeping up with the general flow becomes next-to-impossible, but they won’t say so out of a fear of appearing rude. If you notice they are looking away from you, or seem distracted, then change what you are doing, or pleasantly end the conversation so they can take a break.
Hopefully, the above strategies should allow you to communicate effectively with a loved one who is experiencing hearing loss in the future.
If you want to learn more about Audiology and Hearing Aid Center and how we can help diagnose and treat hearing loss in you or a loved one, call our office at 920-969-1768.