The ability to communicate with others is vital to our happiness and well-being as social animals. The fact that you have lost some or all of your hearing ability does not lessen your need for social communication. Indeed, it is crucial to maintain your relationships if you want to avoid those dispiriting feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Fortunately, once you accept your hearing difficulties you can start to find ways to overcome the challenges. Previously, we explored some ways that you can help yourself but conversation is a two-way process—a dialogue. Here are nine ways that others can help make your life easier and your conversation more enjoyable. Encourage friends and family to read this article.
When dealing with acquaintances and strangers it will be helpful if you can express your needs to them directly—they will appreciate your honesty, and in most cases, will be eager to help you.
1. Avoid shouting
Shouting or raising your voice will not usually help the person with a hearing problem. It is the consonants that enable us to easily distinguish the words and it is these consonants that are particularly difficult for the hard of hearing to pick up. When you raise your voice the consonants are distorted. By all means, enunciate your words more clearly but raising your voice is just tiring for everyone.
2. Don’t exaggerate lip movements
Reading lips plays an important role in everyday conversation but lip reading has its limitations. Even expert lip readers are only able to decipher a limited number of your words. When you exaggerate your mouth movements you distort the shape making comprehension even more challenging. By all means practise clear enunciation but focus on the clarity of your consonants through the placement of your tongue not by exaggerating the mouth movements.
3. Provide a clear view of your face
Facial expression plays a huge role in communication even for those with normal hearing. It is even more important for the hearing challenged person to have a clear view of your face. This allows them to read your lips as well as those other important facial signals such as smiles, eyebrow movements or frowns. For this reason it also critical to keep your hand or other objects away from your mouth and don’t eat or chew while talking. Be mindful of the lighting in the room. If there is strong, bright backlighting or glare it will also make it harder for your conversation partner to read your face.
4. Make eye contact
You know the expression: the eyes are the windows of the soul? Maintain eye contact when talking as this will give your conversation partner additional clues as to not only what you are saying but how you are saying it and what you are feeling about it.
5. Slow down and be clear
It is easy to forget that your hard of hearing friend or family member may have missed most or all of the passing comments that take place in a busy household. But if you want to maintain good communication you need to slow down and give time for real communication to happen. Monitor the speed of your speech and make sure that you are not speaking too quickly. Keep to one topic at a time and clearly signal any changes in the topic rather than rapidly changing topics at random.
6. Maintain a quiet environment
Ensure that the environment is conducive to conversation by turning off radios, dishwashers or other machines. People with hearing difficulties often find it very difficult to filter out those distracting background sounds. The solution may be as simple as closing the laundry door to prevent the noise of the washing machine intruding on your conversation.
7. Get their attention
Your hard of hearing conversation partner may not have heard a single word of your first sentence as you entered the room. You make sure that you have their attention first. A gentle touch on the shoulder may be all that is needed.
8. Be patient
Be patient as you may need to rephrase things a couple of times. It can be helpful if you ask open-ended questions to check your conversation partner’s understanding, e.g. “how do you feel about that?” Be aware also that your conversation partner may find conversation very tiring.
9. Ask about their needs
Everyone is different and has differing needs so ask your conversation partner what you can do to make conversation easier for them.
I have used the phrase “conversation partner” in this article because good conversation is just that: an equal partnership. Good conversation requires a degree of empathy. Try watching television with the sound muted—it will give you some idea of how these tips can help your hard of hearing friend or family member. Yes, remembering to use these tips requires you to practise mindfulness but that benefits you too.
Come and visit us at https://www.houseofhearing.ca/ and we can answer all your questions.