What to do: Communication repair strategies
As a society, we have come up with a way of communicating with one another that goes well beyond the words we say. From facial expressions to hand gestures, we typically use our bodies to animate a conversation. For those who suffer from hearing loss, these secondary communication tools become much more significant. People without hearing loss use the ears as the primary resource to comprehend speech, so it's important to make sure that the conversation is reinforced when hearing loss becomes an issue. Here are a few ways to ensure that your hearing loss isn't putting a damper on talking with family and friends.
People with hearing loss and their family and friends may have to take a few extra steps to ensure that a conversation runs smoothly. It begins with clear speech. While this might sound obvious, we don't all talk in crisp, clear speech, but using it can improve how much of a conversation is understood by 20 percent. When you are in a conversation, ask the other person to speak more slowly. However, explain that it is not necessary for them to exaggerate, draw out words and pause between each word. This can make a conversation much more difficult to understand.
When you first begin to experience hearing loss, you may have to get through a few bumps in the road during conversations. If you run into problems with your communication, try these strategies to improve it:
Change environment or setting: If you are in a noisy or dimly lit room, you'll find that having a conversation is much more challenging. Ask loved ones to move the conversation to another area in the room, or another space altogether. If you are in a public place, like a restaurant, ask to be seated in an area where the lighting is better, or ask to have it turned up where you are sitting if possible.
Ask for a heads up: While you may be listening in on a conversation, you probably don't hear every bit of it. This can be very frustrating for you and others if you are being directly spoken to, but are unaware of it. Ask others to directly call your attention before speaking.
Don't be afraid to guess: You may think that you heard a sentence correctly, but there's a small chance that you didn't. Many people with hearing loss are afraid of the latter, and sometimes give up on speaking up in a conversation. You shouldn't be afraid to guess when you are talking with loved ones.
Ask for a topic: During a conversation, you may be struggling to hear what exactly the speaker is talking about. If you have an idea of the topic or subject, you will be much more likely to make an educated guess and follow along with what is being discussed.
Ask for gestures: Hand gestures and motions make a conversation much easier to understand. For example, if a friend is talking about the time, they can point to their wrist. Nodding, shaking the head, raising arms and pointing to things are all helpful gestures for people with hearing loss.
Simplified conversation: Shorter, simplified sentences make it a lot easier for people with hearing loss to follow along. Ask the person you are speaking with to use uncomplicated terms and sentences that are short and sweet. This way, the conversation will move a bit slower, and you'll be able to follow along without a hitch. This strategy also makes it easier for you to jump in and ask a question when necessary, or ask for a word or phrase to be repeated.
The environment that you are in has a lot to do with how you will comprehend a conversation. For example, being in the comfort of your own home makes it much easier because you can brighten the lights when you please, turn off background noise and you can ask for the speaker to repeat themselves more easily. But when you are not at home, there are few ways you can ensure that your hearing isn't being dramatically affected.
In the car: When you are in the car, you can have control of the environment pretty easily. Make sure that the windows are rolled up, and the fans are turned on low. You can turn the radio off to prevent background distraction.
In a restaurant: Restaurants are often the trickiest places to have a conversation with others when you have hearing loss. Begin by planning ahead: You can call a restaurant and tell them the situation. Ask to be placed in a well-lit area where noise is minimal. Corners are best for this because you don't have noise coming from all directions. Ask for a circular table that allows all speakers to directly look at one another, rather than a long table where speakers on one end or the other may be hard to understand.
If you still need help with communication strategies, make sure to contact your hearing healthcare professional for advice. In addition to the use of hearing aids, you can improve your ability to understand and comprehend conversations with these tips and tricks.