Hearing loss can be a very isolating condition, particularly in regards to social interactions. As a person’s hearing begins to fade, their ability to communicate with friends and family is inevitably diminished, which can contribute to feelings of loneliness and have repercussions for their well-being.
If you notice that a friend or family member is showing the signs of hearing loss, such as asking you to repeat sentences frequently or always turning the volume up on electronic devices, then encouraging them to seek assistance from a hearing instrument specialist or an audiologist can allow them to access the treatment they need to continue interacting with others. In addition, it can also be useful to try a few communication strategies that can assist in ensuring you and your loved one can continue to enjoy your usual conversations. Here are a few you can try.
1. Communicate in writing more frequently
For people who are experiencing hearing loss, spoken conversations can be rather trying. They may have to spend much of the conversation hyper-focusing on the words you are saying, trying to eliminate distracting background noise, and much more besides. As a result of this, many people with hearing loss find conversations strenuous, with headaches and fatigue fairly common experiences.
Given the above, it is worth considering using written forms of communication on occasion, especially when your friend or family member may already be feeling tired. Some apps allow you to type words so that your loved one can read rather than listen, or you could send emails to check-in rather than making a phone call.
2. Make sure your face can clearly be seen
When you want to talk face-to-face, ensuring that your face is as visible as possible will help your loved one to understand what you are saying. Many people with hearing loss tend to rely on facial cues and expressions to give context to the words someone is speaking, so always pick a well-lit room, resist the urge to touch your face or gesture too much as you speak, and avoid eating or drinking during the conversation.
3. Focus on clarity rather than volume
It is entirely natural that when speaking to someone with hearing loss, a person’s first inclination is to increase the volume of their voice. After all, if someone speaks loudly, then surely it’s more likely they would be understood?
Unfortunately, this is not the case – and speaking loudly can actually harm your ability to be understood. When we increase the volume of our voices, the individual words tend to become less distinct. Many people with hearing loss can still hear volume well; the issue is a loss of clarity of individual words; a problem that actually becomes more troublesome if you speak at a louder volume. It is, therefore, preferable to focus on ensuring each word you say is as clearly enunciated as possible rather than raising your voice.
4. Assess the conversation based on reactions
People with hearing loss tend to be very aware of the fact that they may frequently have to ask people to repeat themselves, which can feel rather embarrassing. To avoid being feelings of embarrassment, people with hearing loss are sometimes unwilling to ask for continual repetition or clarification.
To prevent this, it’s helpful to watch how the person reacts when you are speaking. If they are reacting to what you are saying by smiling or nodding, then you can be fairly confident that they can hear you well. However, if their attention appears to have drifted, or their reactions do not quite align with what you are saying, then they may actually be struggling to understand – but are avoiding making this clear, for fear of upsetting you. If you do notice that they appear to be confused, or their attention has slipped, change the way that you are speaking or consider defaulting to a written conversation instead.
5. Reduce background distractions
Finally, all of the face-to-face related strategies we have discussed will be hugely improved by doing all you can to reduce background distractions during a conversation. People with hearing loss can sometimes find it difficult to separate background noise from speech, so choose a quiet environment, free from the noise of TVs, radios or heavy traffic, in which to hold your conversations.
The strategies above should help you to communicate with anyone in your life who is experiencing hearing loss, much to the benefit of you both.
If you would like to learn more about this, please contact one of our convenient locations at 1-888-553-7520.