Hearing loss can be debilitating to an individual’s ability to communicate. It can impact everyday life and cause feelings of loneliness, isolation and frustration, specifically among seniors. Approximately 36 million American adults have some degree of hearing loss.
For these individuals, hearing and understanding speech can be difficult in day-to-day listening environments, especially when there is background noise (i.e., loud restaurants). Though hearing aids and assistive listening devices can greatly improve hearing, we can also prevent or repair communication breakdowns using effective listening and communication strategies.
Strategies for the listener:
- Ask others who speak rapidly to slow down or pause from time to time. Say, “I can understand you better if you speak more slowly.”
- Ask others to look at you when they speak to you and speak a little more loudly. Facial expressions and lip reading can help supplement hearing. Say, “I can hear you better if you look at me and speak a little louder.”
- Ask others to rephrase, not repeat the same information if you do not understand something the first time around. If you hear it in a different way, you have a greater chance of understanding the message. Say, “Can you tell me this in a different way, please?”
- Instead of saying “huh?” “what?” or “pardon?,” try repeating what you heard and ask for clarification. Say, “I heard you say something about this—- but I missed what you said after that.”
- Try to move closer to the person you want to hear well.
- In noisy environments, position your back to the noise. This will help you focus on the person speaking in front of you.
- Move to a well-lit, quieter location where background noise is less likely to interfere with the conversation.
- Be your own advocate. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification.
- You can also suggest ways others can help you hear better. It’s important not to bluff or nod your way through a conversation.
Strategies for the speaker:
- Speak clearly and slow down the rate at which you are speaking. Annunciation is key.
- Speak loudly but don’t shout.
- Before starting a conversation, get the attention of the person you are speaking with first by saying their name.
- Make eye contact during conversation. Visual cues such as facial expressions and lip reading can go a long way to improve understanding.
- Avoid carrying on conversations from another room.
- Try to have a positive attitude towards hearing aid use and encourage conversation.
If you have family members or friends with hearing loss, it’s important to use effective communication strategies to help prevent communication breakdowns. You can also encourage your family or friends to use hearing aids or other amplification devices to better assist with their hearing loss.
To schedule an appointment with a Baylor audiologist, call 713-798-4327 or request an appointment online.
Learn more about Better Hearing and Speech Month.
-By Dr. Shirin Jivani, audiologist at Baylor College of Medicine