Hearing loss is an issue that starts in the ears but quickly affects communication all around you. Even if you don’t have hearing loss, communication takes focus and presence. However, with the added hurdle of hearing impairment, communication can be extremely draining. It is all too common for people with hearing loss to find social situations so exhausting that they withdraw from social interactions and find themselves avoiding them unconsciously, because of the exertion they require. However, if you know someone who struggles with hearing loss, there are certain communication strategies you can use to make it easier and less stressful for someone with a hearing impairment.
Be Aware of Location
For many with hearing loss, crowded or noisy spaces can be a nightmare. It is especially difficult for people with a hearing loss to decipher one conversation from background noise or other conversations. It can be equally confusing to determine the location, in which a sound is coming. For this reason, if you are planning to speak to someone in a crowded room, suggest that you move somewhere quieter to speak. This will give them an advantage, with fewer competing sounds.
If it is not an option to move away from a crowded space, there are visual cues you can employ to compensate. Make sure the room you are speaking in has ample lighting to ensure that they can see your face. Avoid speaking to an individual from another room as this deprives them of the visual cues they may rely on. Many times, people with hearing loss will rely on lip reading, body language, and facial expressions to make up for what they can’t hear. If you must wear a mask, it is a good investment to invest in one with a see-through window over the mouth. You can also rely on written notes or text if all else fails.
Prepare Them to Listen
It takes a lot of focus to listen when you have hearing loss. Let them know you are about to address them, to give them a minute to compose themselves. You can say their name, or gently tap them on the shoulder. It is also important to speak evenly and pronounce words clearly. Remember, that shouting actually can distort the sounds and lip shape for lip readers. At the end of a sentence or thought, take a pause to give the listener a chance to process what you’ve said, before moving on. A calm and even voice will give a person with a hearing impairment the chance to hear what you are saying.
When you speak to someone with a hearing impairment, it is ideal to maintain eye contact. If you can, try sitting closer to them to make it easier for them to hear. This will help the listener stay engaged. It also can be a window into how much the listener is following. If the person with the impairment seems confused by something you’ve said or lost, it is a great time to pause. Try checking in to make sure they are still following. If they seem confused try rewording what you’ve said, rather than repeating. This can add more context to the previous statement and may avoid tones or pitches which could be giving them specific trouble.
The Impact of Hearing Loss
For someone with hearing loss, it can be incredibly alienating and lead to chronic depression and rifts in relationships. When you feel committed to a friend, family member, co-worker or significant other, utilizing communication methods to make it easier for them to hear can make a world of difference. It can help them to feel included, cared for, and engaged. It also can be the difference between them being able to participate in conversation and feeling left out.
Treating Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids
While it can still be a challenge to hear at times with hearing aids, they make a world of difference. These tiny electronic devices amplify the sounds you struggle with, making it so much easier to hear and participate in conversations. If you think you have hearing loss, hearing aids might allow you to communicate clearly again. The first step is scheduling a hearing exam.