Mark Ross, a venerable audiologist with a severe hearing loss himself, once said: ''When
someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.''
Communication is a two-way street, and both the listener with the hearing loss, and his or her
communication partner. can play a role in reducing the problems that may arise during a
conversation. Below are some communication strategies for both the listener and the
communication partner that may significantly reduce conversational difficulties.
Don't try to bide your hearing loss
Listener: Acknowledge your hearing loss so that people will be more likely to look directly at you when talking, and speak clearl} when addressing) ou. If your conversation partner k.nows
that you have hearing difficulties, there may be fewer misunderstandings if you do not respond appropriately or if it appears that you are ignoring the talker.
Communication Partner: IJ someone you are conversing with wears hearing aids and/or tells you that she has a hearing loss. do not shout or exaggerate your mouth movements. Just speak clearly, a little bit slower and a little bit louder. Pausing between phrases will help the listener
have time to process what you are saying.
Use hearing assistive technology
Listener: If you own hearing aids, by all means wear them. If you don't. check with your hearing healthcare professional to see what's new in hearing assistive technology. Some amazing
improvements have been made in hearing aids and it might be time for you to see what
technology might be available to make your communication situations now more easily.
Communication Partner: If you see that the person you are conversing with is having difficulty communicating and they do not use hearing aids or other assistive technology encourage them to gee help using modern digital technology and/or other assistive technology. If they are resistant to hearing technology or in denial consider using some of the strategies for handling a loved one who is in denial about their hearing loss.
Polish your concentration skills
Listener: Pay extra attention the talker and try to hone your listening skills. This may be
especially difficult for new hearing aid users, who may have spent several years "tuning out"
during conversations, movies, lectures, or religious services because of difficulties hearing.
Watch the talker's mouth instead of looking down. Try to concentrate on the topic of
conversation, even if you are missing a few words or phrases.
Communication Partner: Realize that it can be a strain for people with hearing difficulties to listen for long periods of time. Try to appreciate that folks who have to pay extra attention during conversations will often tire more easily than other listeners, and may want to go home earlier
than you do from parties, family dinners, and other group events.
Listener: Anticipate difficult listening situations and plan ahead. If you're dining out with friends, for example. suggest going at a time that is not likely to be busy, recommend a r
that you know is relatively quiet, and familiarize yourself with the restaurant's menu, which can
often be found on line. Going to a bowling luncheon banquet'? Try to arrive early so that you can pick a seat at the table furthest from the noisy kitchen, and choose to sit with your back to a brightly lit window, so you can reduce glare. Be as prepared as you can to minimize listening difficulties.
Communication Partner: When accompanying a friend or family member to an event that is likely lo be a difficult listening situation. think of ways ahead of time to minimize communication problems. For example, if you are going to a lecture· together. try to arrive early so that the two of you can get a good seat. up close to the podium. Engage beforehand in conversation about the
lecture topic as a way or perhaps anticipating what the lecturer will say. If you are hosting a
social event and know that someone who is attending has a hearing loss, strategize as to how you might reduce problem situations. Perhaps you could choose a relatively quiet restaurant and ask to have a private, carpeted room for your event. As!-that the table be set with plastic cutler) and paper dishes. which may significantly reduce the clatter of dishes and eating utensils.
Use effective clarification strategies
Listener: Avoid saying "Huh?'' or "What did you say?" when you have heard at least part of what the speaker was saying. Instead, try saying something like "I know }OU said you are talking about the new house you are building. but I didn't catch where you said the house is located." This way. the talker does not have to repeat everything that was said.
Communication Partner: When the listener has missed something you said, try repeating what you said one time. using clear (but not exaggerated) speech. If the person still does not
understand, try rewording. For example, if the person did not understand you when you said, "It's not polite to boast," repeat it once, then reword your sentence to "It's not nice to brag."
Try to determine the source of your difficulty
Listener: Practice analyzing WHY you are having difficulties with a particular talker, then make specific requests, politely of course. Does she have a soft voice? Rather than saying, "Say again?" try king her to "speak a little bit louder please". Does he speak too fast? Ask him to "please
slow down a bit so my ears can keep up with what you are saying!" If she has turned away from you while talking, don't say, "I didn't hear you." Instead, use a specific request such as "Please face toward me when you speak." If she is talking with her hand over her mouth, say "Could you please put your hand down'' instead of "I can't make out what you're saying."
Communication partner: The best way lo speak clearly for people with hearing loss is to face them. speak a little bit more slowly. a little bit more loudly. and with natural voice intonation, not a monotone. Try not to cover your mouth when you are talking. because that prevents your
partner from taking advantage of lip cues.
Verify what you think you beard
Listener: lf you have the slightest doubt that you understood a message correctly, confirm the
details with the talker. It could save you some embarrassment or complications later.
Communication partner: When giving directions. such as where and when to meet for a
meeting, ask your pa11ner who has a hearing loss if she is clear on the directions by saying
something like, "Did that make sense?"
Accentuate the positive
Listener: Use positive words when you need help from your communication partner, such as
"Could you please speak a bit louder?" instead of ''You're going to have speak louder if you want me to understand you."
Communication partner: When the listener with a hearing loss asks you to say something a
little bit louder, take it as a compliment! It means she really wants to understand what you are
Listener: Politely let your communication partner know what you need to make the conversation flow more easily. At a group meeting, for example. if everyone is talking at once, suggest that
only one person at a time talk. If you are on a conference call, suggest U1at each participant
identify himself or herself when they say something, such as "This is Pat. I think. we should have the fundraising event on a weekend."
Communication partner: If the person you are talking with indicates that they have a hearing
loss and need you to speak a bit louder or a bit slower, try to accommodate their needs, but like Goldilocks and the porridge, it needs to be "just right"; i.e .. not too slow., not too fast; not too
loud, not too soft." The accommodations you make will enable the conversation to flow more
easily for both of you.
Listen with your eyes, not just your ears
Listener: Watch the speaker's face. Although less than 50% of the English language is visible on the lips. you can still get a great deal of help by picking up visual cues on the speaker's face. Did the speaker say, "I need to go home"? Or was It "I need a phone"? Watch the person's face and
you will probably figure it out because "home" and "phone" look different on the lips. The
speaker's facial expressions may also help you understand what is being said.
Communication partner: The listener may benefit tremendously by being able to watch your
lips as you speak. Be sure to not cover your mouth with your hands, a restaurant menu. etc., so that the visible features of speech are available.
Sometimes it's okay to break the rules
Listener: Sure. your mother instructed you carefully in social rules, like "Never interrupt", ''Don't buck the line", and "Wait patient!) until it's your turn to speak." However, picture this scenario: you are at a busy airport. waiting at the gate. and after a loudspeaker announcement that you
couldn't understand, half the people waiting with you start running to another gate. Despite what your mother taught you, don't feel that you must wait in the long line of people waiting to talk to the gate agent. Simply go to the he-ad of the line and say "Excuse me, I don't mean to break into the line but I could not hear the announcement that was just made and wonder if you could repeat it for me so I don't miss my connection."
Communication partner: It's important to understand that what may seem like rudeness on the part. of your friend or family member is simply an effort to let you know as soon as possible that he is having communicating difficulty. For example, if he stops you in the middle of your
description of your recent trip to the Rockies, just to ask you to speak a little slower, don't think of him as being impolite or not interested. Quite the opposite, he may be indicating that he wants to hear about your travel experiences but can understand your recount better when you use clearer speech. So take it as a compliment, not as poor social skills.
Go easy on yourself
Listener: Be patient, with yourself, with your family and friends, and with people you encounter throughout the day. Don't blame yourself or others for your difficulties. Just keep trying to use the tips provided here and stay positive, even when the going gets tough. Some days will be more difficult than others but a cheerful attitude can work wonders for getting through the tough times. Communication partner: Keep reminding yourself that although it may be difficult for you too