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If you’re new to hearing loss, you might be struggling to communicate with friends, family and colleagues. While working around your hearing loss to be effective at work or connect with the people in your life does present a new challenge, there are a few tips that can be extremely helpful when you’re adjusting to the realities of hearing loss.
Let People Know About Your Hearing Loss
Especially when we first begin to experience hearing loss, our tendency may be to try to push on as normal. Unfortunately, this tends to cause more problems than it avoids. Research indicates that an assertive approach to hearing loss is the most successful, and those who adopt it report the most satisfaction with their social interactions. This entails disclosing that you have hearing loss to the person you’re speaking to, and noting a thing or two that they can do to help you better understand them.
An example of an assertive approach to your hearing loss might be, “I’m a little hard of hearing, could you make sure you’re facing me when you speak?” Of course, you need to find out what sorts of techniques work best for you before you can let other people know.
Tips and Tricks
Here are a few things you might ask your conversational partners to do that could help you understand them better:
- Face you when they speak
- Avoid covering their mouths
- Enunciate clearly
- Speak more slowly, but do this by leaving a little extra pause between words, rather than stretching the words out longer
- Keep volume moderate; shouting tends to distort words and can actually make them more difficult for you to hear
- Get your attention before speaking, either by gently tapping your shoulder or saying your name
- Don’t shout to you from other rooms
- If you need them to repeat something, ask that they rephrase what they want to say, rather than simply say the same thing again
Set Up for Success
One of the first clues that a person is suffering from hearing loss is that they have trouble hearing speech in busy environments like restaurants and bars, where music plays and conversations swirl. If you’ve noticed this, you might have some ideas about how to arrange an environment to make it more likely that you’ll be able to have the focus you need.
- Make sure you can sit facing the other person or persons; for more than a few people, a round table will make you more able to see everyone’s face and read lips.
- The room should be well-lit.
- Eliminate or minimize background noises. If you’re meeting up at a restaurant or bar, choose the quietest option.
- If you find yourself having an important talk in a noisy environment, ask the other person to step into a quieter space with you.
- If your hearing is better in one ear than the other, let the other person know and arrange yourselves such that they’re speaking into your “good” ear.
- If you’re discussing something important and having trouble hearing, maybe the conversation can move to email or online chat.
Seek Professional Help
Audiologists are well-versed in the ways that people with hearing loss can communicate more effectively. If you’re struggling to communicate and feeling frustrated, schedule a hearing test and see what an audiologist recommends for your situation. It’s best to start wearing hearing aids as soon as your hearing loss becomes problematic, as putting it off can result in brain atrophy and the loss of the ability to comprehend speech, loneliness, depression, and other terrible but avoidable health outcomes.
While hearing aids are the best and most important improvement we can make in our ability to communicate with hearing loss, there may be a number of other recommendations your audiologist can offer. The first step is to schedule a hearing test today, where you can start a conversation that will lead to vast improvements in your life. The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, reports that 91% of people who get hearing aids are satisfied with them. There is a wide range of options available for a variety of lifestyle priorities, so start the conversation with an audiologist today and be on your way to a lifetime of better hearing.