Practicing good communication techniques can improve conversations and reduce the frustration that hearing difficulty can create. It may take some time to change old habits, but a better relationship is well worth the effort!
- Reduce background noise. It’s always harder to hear and understand when competing noises are present, especially when there’s a hearing loss. Whenever possible, turn off the tv or radio and minimize background noise when you’re having a conversation. This may mean moving to a quieter area of the house or changing tables at a restaurant.
- Face your loved one when you’re speaking. It’s always easier to understand when you can see the speaker’s face, especially if you have a hearing loss. We all have some natural lip reading ability, even if we’ve never had formal training. Refrain from trying to have conversations when you can’t see one another – such as from different rooms of the house, when one person’s back is turned, or from the front to back seats of the car.
- Turn on the light. We can maximize our natural lip reading ability when the speaker’s face is fully visible. Dim lighting makes it difficult to see not only lip movements, but also facial expressions and gestures that can also aid in understanding the speaker’s message. Beware of back lighting that can obscure a speaker’s features.
- Pay attention to seating. Sit close to one another when having a conversation. Distance greatly diminishes the volume and clarity of sound. Sitting across from one another is sometimes preferable to sitting next to one another, so you can get full view of the other person, and your voice is directed equally to both ears.
Rephrase rather than repeat. Some sounds and words are more difficult to hear depending on your loved one’s hearing loss. If your loved one asks you to repeat something, consider saying it in a different way.
Speak at a normal volume. Shouting distorts sounds and words so that they are less likely to be understood, and you’ll likely get fatigued and frustrated by the extra vocal effort. Speak at a normal volume level, but slow the pace slightly if your loved one has difficulty understanding what you’re saying.
- Take turns. In group conversations, encourage people to speak one at a time. When more than one person is speaking at the same time, speech becomes background noise that can be difficult to distinguish for people with hearing loss.