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Hearing Loss Communication Strategies
Numerous studies have shown that hearing loss tends to lead to social isolation, which, in turn, can be detrimental to mental health and well-being. Due to this, ensuring that lines of communication remain open with loved ones who are living with hearing loss is incredibly important – and here are a few strategies that can help you to achieve this goal.
Eliminate background distractions
One of the biggest issues when conversing with people with hearing loss is background noise; the louder the environment you are in is, the more challenging it will be for you to be heard. Wherever possible, try to eliminate background distractions – turn TVs or radios off, or close interior doors to prevent sound disturbances from elsewhere in the house. If you are talking outside you will have less control over the environment, but it’s still best to try and choose the quietest spot possible and always pause if there is a sudden noise disturbance, such as a car horn or a large vehicle passing nearby.
Draw attention before you start to speak
When most of us begin to speak, we expect the other person we are conversing with will notice this and turn their attention to us accordingly – the words themselves are the trigger that causes people to turn to us and divert their attention to our words. However, when speaking to people with hearing loss, just starting to speak may not be sufficient to draw their focus. Instead, say their name clearly, or lightly touch their hand or arm to prevent them from missing the start of a conversation.
Always face the person you are speaking with
This is a simple strategy, but one that is incredibly helpful and well worth trying. By ensuring that your face and lips are always in view, your loved one will be able to use facial cues, which help to give context to what you are saying. In a similar vein, try to avoid obstructing your lips when you speak – avoid eating or drinking, and if you gesture, try to keep your hands below your neck when you do so.
Make small changes to the way that you speak (but avoid increasing volume)
When conversing to someone with hearing loss, it can be helpful to change the way that you speak. For example:
- Speak in shorter sentences, and leave a brief pause between each sentence before moving to the next, especially if changing subjects.
- Choose simpler words wherever possible.
- You can lower the speed of your speech if you wish, but this does not need to be exaggerated – just a touch slower than you would usually speak is more than sufficient.
However, it is not advisable to try and increase the volume at which you speak. Often, when people try to speak loudly, the words themselves can become indistinct; all someone hears is the volume, rather than the sound of the individual words.
Change the words you use when asked to repeat a sentence
If the person you are speaking with asks you to repeat what you have said, then it’s worth using different words but retaining the same meaning. For example:
- “I’m going to a friend’s house” could become “I’m going to visit [friend’s name]”
- “I like your new sofa” could become “your new couch is great”
- “Have you fed the cat?” could become “has the cat had their dinner?”
Repeating the exact same sentence does not make it any more likely to be understood, especially given that some letters – such as S, H and F – are often less distinct to people with hearing loss. As a result, switching the actual words you use, and amending the order of words, can be more beneficial than simple repetition.
Write rather than call when you are communicating at a distance
Above, we have focused primarily on speaking to someone face-to-face, so it’s worth addressing how to converse with a loved one from a distance. When doing so, it’s usually best to use written conversations rather than making a phone call – WhatsApp, Skype, and numerous other messaging apps can all be very useful in this regard. Communicating by phone can be trickier for people with hearing loss, especially if they are using a hearing aid that requires them to position the phone in a certain way to be used comfortably, so distant communication is always best in text form.
The strategies above should help to ensure that you can continue to communicate effectively with any friends or family members who are experiencing hearing loss and may need an appointment with an audiologist.
Call 800-273-9536 to learn more about Adirondack Audiology and how we can help you treat your hearing difficulties.