Our ability to hear is one of our most important senses as it connects us to the world around us. With masks and social distancing thrown in the mix, COVID has made communication even more challenging. For those of you who missed the Health and Wellness Committee’s recent speaker, audiology professor Dr. Tricia Dabrowski, A.T. Still University Audiology Department has kindly provided Beatitudes Campus with the following helpful tips to improve communication with hearing loss.
Let’s start with the Listener.
- Don’t be embarrassed by your hearing loss. Explain, or remind speakers, that you have difficulty hearing, and describe the best way for the Speaker to communicate in order for you to understand.
- Pay attention to the speaker’s face and gestures while they speak.
- Don’t bluff! Pretending that you heard something never results in a solution to your communication troubles.
- Provide feedback after the communication so the Speaker knows how well they are doing.
- Arrange for frequent breaks during long discussions.
- Set realistic goals about what you can expect to understand.
Now let’s consider some things the Speaker can do which will help a great deal:
- Get the person’s attention before you begin to speak.
- Always face the listener and do not put obstacles in front of your face (unless you need to be wearing a mask).
- Speak into their “good ear” if they have one.
- Use facial expressions and gestures to help convey the meaning of your words.
- Speak slightly slower and louder and be sure to enunciate. Pause briefly after key words in the phrase to increase the likelihood that the Listener will understand the communication the first time around.
- Speak to the listener in a well-lit place, so they can read your lips as you speak.
- Give a clue of some kind when the topic is changing.
- If the listener does not understand something you’re trying to say after the second attempt, try using different words.
- When you’re in a difficult listening environment simplify the conversation.
- When in doubt, ask the Listener what you could do to help.
- Before parting ways, always leave a thorough note of any important facts, dates, times, etc. that were discussed in the conversation, so the listener can correctly recall important details.
Don’t expect any of these strategies to work 100% of the time. Both the Listener and Speaker must maintain a positive attitude, be patient, and relax! Now let’s consider how you might change the Environment to increase the likelihood that communications will be understood.
- Recognize that noise is your enemy! For the hearing impaired, modest amounts of background noise mask the important speech sounds they are trying to hear and can make communication very challenging.
- The ideal listening distance is 4-6 feet. This will allow the Listener to observe your facial expressions, gestures, and optimize the volume of soft speech sounds.
- Lighting that is too dark will make it difficult for the Listener to view the Speakers facial expressions and lips (be aware of glare from shiny surfaces obstructing views, as well).
Another way to improve communication is to ensure that your ears, eyes, and hearing aids are working properly. Remember to visit your audiologist and optometrist annually!