Being in a confined space for an extended period of time can put a lot of pressure on relationships. One way we can ease this tension is through effective communication. However, this can be challenging for both people with and without a hearing loss. Communication is something we do every day, yet it is still one of the most difficult areas in a relationship to navigate. It requires energy, focus and patience. Even when a person with a hearing loss is wearing a hearing aid, it can sometimes be challenging for them to hear everything. In order to improve the quality and ease of these conversations, you can try the following:
Tips for general good communication with everyone
- Get their attention before speaking – The person you are speaking to may not know you are talking to them, so they do not know they are meant to be listening. This may lead to them missing important context.
- Be a good listener and let others speak – Give the person you are speaking to your attention. Try not to think about what you are going to say next, and rather focus on what is being said. It can also be incredibly frustrating when you are trying to say something, and someone interrupts you in the middle of your sentence. Letting others speak until they are finished without interrupting is a great rule for everyone to follow.
- Be direct in what you want or need – People cannot read your mind, so ask for what you want by saying “Will you please…?”
- Reduce background noise – Some people struggle to pay attention and understand speech when in the presence of background noise. For many, following a conversation when there is music playing can be very challenging.
- Repeat or rephrase – If you are asked to repeat something, you can repeat it once. But if the person is still struggling to make out what you have said, try to rephrase your sentence by saying the same thing in a different way.
Tips specific to communicating with someone with a hearing loss
- Use visual cues – Make sure your mouth is uncovered and you are facing the person with hearing loss. This will help with lip-reading and will prevent sounds being lost. Try not to speak from another room or when your back is turned to the person.
- Speak at a normal volume and pace – Speaking louder (shouting) and/or slower than usual will distort your lips, this makes lip-reading much more challenging. Rather try speaking clearly and projecting your voice.
- Give context – The person with a hearing loss may need to make educated guesses about the words they have missed. This will be much easier if they know the conversation topic.
- Take note of body language – If you notice that the person with hearing loss is leaning towards you or seems a bit confused, ask them if they are able to follow what you have said before continuing to speak. You can also ask them if there is anything you can do to help make it easier for them to hear.
Tips for the conversation partner with a hearing loss
- Understand your hearing needs and be an advocate – Hearing loss is an invisible disability, therefore, unless you ask for help, people may not know that you need it. Everyone’s hearing needs are different, so you need to figure out what works best for you. Then when voicing your needs, try to be as clear as possible, this will make it more likely for people to try them out.
- Accept your hearing loss – If you can show that you are comfortable with and accepting of your hearing loss, this will allow others to be comfortable as well. If you are in a social situation and you happen to miss some of it, make sure to conserve your energy for upcoming conversations by pacing yourself. Sometimes the things that you mis-hear can actually be quite funny, so don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
- When asking for clarification – If somebody has said something and you were unable to make it out, try not to just say “what did you say”. Rather be specific about what part of the conversation you missed by saying something like “Sorry, I missed where you said you got that top from?”
By Talia Lifson