To truly listen takes focus and energy. For 48 million people in the US who have a hearing impairment, listening can be incredibly frustrating and exhausting. Hearing aids can amplify sounds, making it less of a challenge to listen and respond, but even with treatment, living with hearing loss takes extra accommodations. If someone in your life has hearing loss, there are certain communication strategies which can make the process of hearing easier for them.
The Importance of a Listening Environment
Environment is one of the most important factors which can enable someone with hearing loss to hear successfully or struggle to hear. Being aware of the environment you are speaking in can make all the difference between a person who feels left out of the conversation, verses, feelings of participation and inclusion.
A Well Lit Space
People with hearing loss often focus on the other senses to supplement what they struggle to hear. This is why consciously or unconsciously, many with hearing loss rely on lip reading, facial expression and body language when speaking. To make sure a person with hearing loss can follow the conversation with you. Make sure there is good lighting. Avoid covering your face or lips with your hands.
The Struggle of Hearing in a Loud Space
Another hurdle for those with hearing loss is challenges hearing amidst background noise. It is common for anyone to struggle to hear during a loud music performance, in a nightclub, or noisy restaurant, but for those with hearing loss the struggle is amplified. There is a good chance that the person you are trying to speak to will not be able to hear at all. Keep this in mind and make sure to pick a place to socialize which is a bit quieter. This does not mean you cannot go out to a restaurant or bar, but choose a time that is popular, to avoid the crowd if possible.
If you do have control of the noise in your space, limit it during your conversation. Wait to run dishwashers or air conditioners till after a social engagement and turn off background music.
Once your environment is quiet and ideal for listening, there are tips you can use while speaking to make sure you are heard optimally:
Eye contact: Making sure you maintain eye contact with the person with a hearing impairment, can ensure that they stay focused, and you will be able to detect if there is confusion as to what you are trying to convey.
Prepare to hear: Avoid speaking from another room, as it is helpful for someone with a hearing issue to prepare to listen. Make sure you get the person’s attention before you start speaking by tapping their shoulder or saying their name.
Write down important information: Key information such as phone numbers, addresses and meeting times should be written down, to avoid confusion or possible mistakes. If you don’t have a pen, Smartphone or computer available, ask the person to repeat the specifics to you so you can make sure they got them right.
Speak in to the “good ear”: It is common for hearing loss to occur unevenly. Even so, most people have hearing loss in both ears, even though one ear may be more severely affected. If you are aware of what ear is more able it is helpful for the impaired listener to be spoken to from that side.
Speak clearly: It is common for people to assume that speaking loudly will help a person with hearing loss. Often shouting can distort the lips and sound making it more confusing to understand. Make sure to pronounce words and avoid slang unless the other is familiar with it. Take care to avoid speaking over others or having multiple people speaking at once, as this can be confusing for everyone.
Treating Hearing Loss
While these strategies for communication are helpful for people with hearing loss, if someone in your life is not addressing and treating their hearing loss, these issues will only become more serious. Communication with hearing loss can be improved by the use of hearing aids to amplify lost sounds. The first step is to encourage your loved one to get their hearing tested. This way they can understand the extent of their impairment. We will be there to help them understand all of their options and help them find the best one for their specific needs.