The sense of hearing is important in allowing us to connect with others. Unlike our sense of vision that connects us to material objects, our sense of hearing allows us to be engaged in our world and provides us with empowerment. When hearing is diminished, communication may become increasingly difficult, and our sense of independence and quality of life is reduced.
Communication should be considered a “two-way street” as it involves more than just the person with hearing loss. The use of hearing devices and other assistive listening technologies are only a part of the solution and do not eliminate the need for good communication skills.
If you have a friend or family member with hearing loss, there are techniques that you can incorporate into your daily life to make communication easier and more effective:
- Gain attention. It is important to gain the attention of the listener before you begin speaking. This ensures that the person is aware, attentive and prepared to listen.
- Make eye contact. We hear with our eyes as well as our ears. We use cues from mouth movements and facial expressions to help supplement what we hear. It is important to ensure that your listener can see your face and lips. Avoid covering your mouth. Do not try to speak from another room or at a distance.
- Speak naturally and clearly. Speak naturally, without shouting and without exaggeration. Speech can become distorted with shouting. Also, speak with a slower pace, incorporating pauses. With hearing loss, the ability to process speech can be slowed.
- Repeat and rephrase. If your listener does not understand what has been said, repeat only once. If they do not understand after you have repeated it, rephrase the message. Using different words or phrases may put the topic in a different context that may be easier for the listener to understand.
- Avoid background noise. If possible, avoid conversation in environments with background noise. Situations with background noises are the most difficult situations for those with hearing loss as speech is in competition with ambient sounds. Try to eliminate noise by turning down the radio, muting the TV or closing windows to reduce traffic noise. Move closer to your listener so your voice is louder than the background noise. Wait until the noise passes or move to a quieter location.