Communication strategies are key to success when speaking to a person with a hearing loss, even if they are wearing hearing aids. Here are some tips to help you hear better!
1) When having conversations, make sure you are in a well-lit room.
Whether you realize it or not, everyone lip reads to some degree, even if you have normal hearing. When you are speaking with people who have hearing loss, sitting in a well-lit room is important to help with visualization of facial cues and to facilitate lip reading.
2) When speaking to a person with a hearing loss, raise your voice without yelling, and speak slowly and clearly and as naturally as possible. Do not yell, shout or exaggerate mouth movements.
Shouting actually distorts the sounds of speech and facial cues, making it more difficult for a person with a hearing loss to lip read and understand what you are saying. It’s ok to raise your voice, but be sure to keep speech as natural as possible.
3) Avoid using long and complicated sentences or speaking quickly during conversations.
Short and concise sentences are easier to understand. Slowing down and pausing during a conversation also allows a person with a hearing loss to have time to process and digest what is being heard.
4) Directly face the person with the hearing loss when speaking to them.
People with a hearing loss benefit from using facial expression, visual cues and lip-reading when trying to understand messages being conveyed to them.
5) Before engaging in conversation, say the person’s name to get their attention.
A common complaint people with a hearing loss report, is that they miss the beginning of sentences. If the hearing-impaired person is not focusing on the main speaker of a group, they might not be aware they are talking until it’s too late! Saying a person’s name will engage them in the conversation right away, before they have a chance to miss important parts of what is being said. This will alert the person with the hearing loss, and allow them to focus their attention so they don’t miss out on the conversation.
6) If important information is being relayed, have people repeat back what was said.
This will confirm to the speaker all information was properly delivered and will ensure the message was properly understood.
7) If talking in a group, ensure everyone takes turns speaking, and avoid interruptions.
Taking turns speaking ensures the message is being delivered clearly, and gives the best opportunity for lip-reading and understanding facial cues. Messages get confused if everyone speaks at once, and it can be very difficult for the listener to follow what is being said.
8) Avoid abrupt changes in the topic of conversation, and acquaint the listener on the topics being discussed.
Abrupt changes in the topic of conversation can be confusing to the listener. Acquainting a listener to the topics being discussed, or alerting them if topics change allows the listener to use context cues to decipher the message.
9) If the listener does not understand what is being said, try rephrasing the sentencing instead of repeating the same message.
Hearing a message in a different way will help the listener pick up key information, making it easier to understand the message being conveyed.
10) When speaking, limit any background noise in the environment if possible (turn off the tap, vacuum cleaner, etc.).
Background noise distorts the speech signal and makes it more difficult to hear, especially if you have a hearing loss. Try and limit noise, if possible, prior to having a conversation. If you are in a restaurant, try and sit in a quiet and well-lit section to make conversations easier.
11) When having conversations, be sure to speak to each other from the same room, and try and limit distance between each other when talking.
While hearing aids can dramatically improve communication, they cannot perform miracles, and ultimately, they are working with an auditory system that has some damage. Yelling from different rooms when trying to have a conversation is the worst way to communicate! Facial features cannot be used to understand conversation and speech distorts and softens when it bounces around walls or is absorbed in carpets. Be sure to have conversations in the same room, and limit distance as much as you can when trying to have a conversation.