People with hearing loss want to hear and be heard just like anyone else. There are some simple steps you can take when speaking with them to help facilitate effective communication and to help them feel included.
Start by making sure they are “on line”
When calling someone on the phone, is it customary to start talking before they pick up the phone and say “hello?” Of course not, we want to make sure that there is a connection and that the person answering the phone is listening. The same exchange of seeking attention and listening is true of face-to-face communication. Couples and friends who are relaxed and used to each other sometimes begin a narrative when the partner isn’t listening and doesn’t have the context of the comment or question. It is useful to establish a pattern that alerts the partner and establishes the connection.
Instead of declaring “It’s Taco Tuesday, let’s go to El Cholo tonight.” with no lead in, start with an alerting phrase:
You: “I have an idea!”
Partner: “What’s that?”
You: “It’s Taco Tuesday, let’s go to El Cholo tonight.”
The unalerted declaration may often yield a “Huh?” response and may create frustration. With the alerting lead-in, a connection is made, and confirmed with a solid response.
Focus on a moderated rate and carefully articulated (but not exaggerated) pattern of speech
When y talking to people who have no hearing problems, it’s easy to slip into shared slang and shorthand without having to worry that the other party won’t understand. When speaking to someone with hearing issues, shorthand phrases often get lost, and the meaning can easily become obscured, or the conversation thread may be lost. Put your energy into speaking clearly, take an extra second to think about the words you are choosing, and focus on your phrasing structure.
Look people directly in the eye when conversing
People without hearing loss get accustomed to having conversations with someone while looking elsewhere; perhaps chatting together while watching the television or catching a loved one up on the day while performing household tasks. When talking with a person with hearing loss, it’s important to look directly at them as often as possible. Most people who have difficulty hearing use speechreading as a tool to help them clarify a speaker’s words, even if they haven’t received formal training in it.
Consider solutions beyond simply repeating
Our instinctive response to someone who says they didn’t understand us is to repeat the same phrase over again in a louder voice. It’s an understandable reaction but often unhelpful for people with hearing loss. If the person you’re speaking to has trouble understanding you, resist the temptation to simply repeat yourself, and especially at a louder volume. Look for other ways to get your point across such as rephrasing the information and adding visual cues.
Try to keep background noise to a minimum
Ask any person who lives with hearing loss, and they’ll likely tell you that background noise is one of the most difficult conditions for them to navigate. You may not always be able to control the environment if you are in a public place such as a restaurant, but if you are having someone with hearing loss over to your home, consider what steps you can take to make the space more amenable to them.
These tips can help you better communicate with people with hearing loss, but there are innovative treatments and technology that can vastly improve their lives and help them engage with the world around them. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations and learn more about how we can help.