Having conversations when you have hearing loss can be challenging. Impaired hearing reduces capacity to hear and process sound so navigating communication can require extra work for people with hearing loss. If you have a loved one with impaired hearing, there are numerous ways you can support their hearing needs. It is important to remember that successful communication requires everyone involved in a conversation. So practicing effective communication strategies can help make conversations more accessible and smooth. Your support is invaluable and can strengthen your relationship with your loved one. A few tips you can integrate include the following:
- Maintain visibility. It is important to face your loved one while speaking. Being visible provides access to nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions which can help your loved one follow the conversation. You want to make sure that there is good lighting and that you are positioned in a way that is clear to the listener. This also allows them to read lips which is a common strategy people with hearing loss use to help identify individual words.
- Grab their attention. Another useful tip is to grab your loved one’s attention before starting a conversation. You can do this by calling their name or tapping them on the shoulder to indicate that you are talking to them. This provides them with the time to be prepared for the conversation. Be sure to avoid shouting out or starting a conversation from a different room which makes it difficult to hear.
- Reduce background noise. Background noise can make it challenging for anyone to hear but it can be especially difficult for people with hearing loss. It creates competing noise that the brain has to filter through, taking extra work and energy. This can be exhausting, distracting, and create even more hearing challenges during a conversation. So be sure to reduce background noise as much as possible. You can do this by maintaining lower volume settings on any music or TV that is playing in the background, turning down the settings on your phone, powering off any noisy appliances that are not being used, choosing quieter restaurants to dine at, rolling up the windows while driving etc.
- Minimize multitasking. It is common to multitask during a conversation – texting, eating, cleaning, driving etc. While these are normal activities to engage in, doing this while having a conversation with your loved one with hearing loss can strain communication. Multitasking can contribute to creating additional noise and can also block visibility. Additionally, multitasking can prevent you from being fully present during the conversation. This can reduce your ability to notice your loved one struggling to hear or process what you are saying. Minimizing multitasking as much as possible can support having a smooth conversation.
- Rephrase vs. repeat. A common mistake people make is to repeat themselves when their loved one hasn’t heard or is struggling to hear what is being said. But it is important to know that hearing loss can make it challenging to hear specific tones and pitches. Rather than repeating, rephrasing is a more useful strategy because it creates greater possibility for your loved one to easily hear what you are saying.
- Know what to avoid. In addition to background noise and multitasking, avoid the following:
- Shouting or projecting your voice. Talking louder can actually make it harder to hear because it can further distort your speech. Instead, speak clearly and take natural pauses.
- Talking rapidly. Speaking fast can really make it tough to hear and process what you are saying. Slow down and take pauses between sentences which gives your loved one time to keep up and process what you are saying.
- Blocking your face and mouth with your hands. This prevents your loved one from having access to lip reading and nonverbal cues that help them follow the conversation.
- Pay attention. Be present and pay attention to your loved one. If they express a puzzled or confused look, ask if you can clarify anything. Also, ask your loved one if there are any adjustments you can make to better support their hearing needs.
Additional tips you can practice include: texting detailed information like addresses and phone numbers, taking turns speaking, avoid abrupt topic changes, and be patient. Contact us today to learn more about how you can better support your loved one with hearing loss.