At one point or another we have all asked “what?” or “huh?” too many times that we ignore the problem and just smile and nod hoping to move a conversation forward. This situation happens more often for those with hearing loss. Hopefully, you can remedy these situations with the use of hearing aids.
However, even when adjusted and worn appropriately, hearing aids are not always perfect. Some listening situations are always less than ideal, resulting in miscommunication. It’s important for everyone—especially those with hearing loss—to keep in mind some basic communication tips, so they can handle these situations most effectively.
1. Take Control of the Situation
First, be your own advocate. You can avoid many communication issues entirely if you approach the situation in the right way. If the person you’re talking with speaks quickly, too quietly, or has an accent, or you know you’ll be somewhere with significant background noise, be the first to provide a solution. Be open with them and ask to move the conversation to a quieter area to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings.
Other tips include:
- Asking the speaker to “rephrase” instead of “repeat”
- Requesting the speaker slow down
- Writing down important details
- Reminding the speaker to look directly at you while speaking
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
People with hearing loss often struggle to understand conversations in noisy restaurants or at family gatherings. These places are typically crowded and tend to have hard floors and walls. All these reflective surfaces create huge amounts of distracting noise. If you have input, opt for a quieter restaurant with carpets and other sound absorbing fabrics.
If possible, choose a booth away from noisy areas like the bar, kitchen, or restrooms. If none of those options are available, find an area with good lighting and stand or sit less than six feet from whomever you are speaking with.
You can also implement these tips in the home. In your home, use sound absorbing materials, reduce background noise, and ensure good lighting and seating arrangements.
3. Pay Attention to Body Gestures and Facial Cues
The benefit of good lighting is often overlooked. Many people don’t realize how often they lip-read and use gestures to supplement what they’re hearing. Even without formal training, you can pay attention to facial cues to help improve your speech understanding.
Things to Watch Out For
It’s important to note that understanding speech is more difficult when you’re tired, stressed, or distracted. It is extremely helpful to have family and friends get the attention of the listener first and remain face to face throughout the conversation to minimize errors. Shouting complicated requests from the opposite side of the house while doing dishes is difficult for everyone involved.
Knowing and using these tips can help anyone—with or without hearing loss—to communicate more effectively. When understanding becomes tricky, the speaker and listener should be patient with each other and find a solution that works for both of them.