Imagine regularly asking someone to repeat something over and over again. You may sense the speaker’s frustration and feel bad about having to ask. You may even decide to stop asking all together, further isolating yourself from the conversation and whoever you’re talking to. This situation is just as frustrating for those who suffer from hearing loss. As an acquaintance, family member or friend of a person with hearing loss, you can help improve your communications with him or her by following a few simple suggestions. You can even apply these suggestions to your general conversations too!
1. Move Away from Background Noise
Avoid shouting over background noise; shouting distorts the sound of your voice and can actually make you harder to hear! Speak at a normal volume and at a distance of three to six feet.
2. Properly Pronounce Your Words
It seems obvious, but sometimes our voices trail off when we speak, leaving out the endings of words and/or phrases. For the most part, we can fill in the blanks, but these missing parts of speech can make a huge difference to those with hearing loss. Articulate words clearly and slowly. Don’t mumble, but don’t over articulate either. Pause between statements and avoid obscuring your mouth or chewing food while you speak. Also, make sure to avoid moving around while you talk. Your movement can hide facial clues that aid in communication and can obstruct the path of the sound waves coming out your mouth.
3. Rephrase Your Message
Save yourself some repetition time and try rephrasing your message if you think the person has misunderstood you. Look for clues in the person’s facial expressions and responses to gage how well your message is being understood. Maybe the person heard you just fine, but your message on its own is unclear.
4. Speak in An Appropriate Setting
Did you know that where you speak to someone can impact your conversation as well? Try to speak to people in a well-lit area. This will make your lip movements, facial expressions and gestures easier to see. Make sure you have the person’s attention and are clearly visible to him or her before you start speaking.
5. Make an Effort to Include People With Hearing Loss in Group Conversations
Most people are not eager to announce their hearing issue, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not effecting them. Discreetly and respectfully ask the person with hearing loss what you can do to make the conversation easier for him or her. Be mindful of the environmental factors that make speech difficult to understand such as poor lighting and loud noises. Tell the person the topic of conversation; don’t force him or her to guess. Speak directly to, not about, the person with hearing loss. Arrange the room where communication will take place so that all the participants are completely visible to one another.
These suggestions can significantly improve your conversations with those suffering from hearing loss, but they can also improve your conversations with people in general. Remember, whether someone wears hearing aids or not, it’s important to follow these tips to maintain smooth interactions with people and to increase the quality of your social life and the social life of others.