We’ve all experienced a struggle to communicate with someone who has hearing loss. One the one hand, you want to do as much as you can to make hearing as easy as possible. You only want to help solve the problems that arise due to hearing loss on the part of your family member or loved one. On the other hand, you might feel bad overcompensating when you aren’t sure of the nature of the hearing loss. Although you want to help make thing easy, you also don’t want to risk embarrassing your family member or displaying to others that hearing loss is a problem. What to do, stuck between a rock and a hard place? The following tips can help you communicate better with a person who has hearing loss, finding solutions to the problems that arise while also protecting their own identity on the spectrum of hearing ability.
Ask How to Help
It may seem intuitive, but if you have a sense that someone has hearing loss, feel free to ask if your speech is easy to understand. You may have heard from another source that someone has hearing loss or the person may have told you directly. In either case, it can be tricky to navigate communication. Simply asking, “Can you hear me okay?” is a great way to open up a conversation about your communication. The person may just as easily say, “Would you mind speaking up?” as they may say, “Thanks, I can hear you just fine.” It’s possible that the person with hearing loss is wearing invisible hearing aids or aids that you didn’t notice. Simply by starting the discussion, you can break the tension of not knowing whether or not your communication is getting through.
Choose the Right Volume
Speaking more loudly to assist someone with hearing loss is only one piece of the puzzle, and still it is an important way to make communication more effective. Those with naturally soft voices can help others hear them by raising the volume. However, raising your voice to a very loud level can be awkward for all involved. Take cues from the others around you to choose a good starting volume of speech. Loved ones and family member may already know a good volume to choose.
Look Straight Ahead
Even those who do no have formal instruction in reading lips employ it as a method to better understand others. Looking peripherally at a face can give other cues to the meaning of speech as well, not to mention the emotional context of tone or pitch. If you look straight ahead at the person with hearing loss, especially while making eye contact, your face can give important cues. If you happen to think of it, also stand in a place where your face can be clearly seen. For example, if you are in a shadow or very backlit by a window, the expressions and shape of your face may be hard to decipher.
Enunciate Your Words Slowly
Even if we speak loudly and look straight ahead, some of us tend to mumble or blend together words unnecessarily. Separating words from one another can be helpful for those with hearing loss, as can pronouncing the consonants of our words. Rather than quickly running together your words, try separating them from one another with a tiny bit of space. Fast talkers can help by slowing down their speed a bit. Although all of these approaches can be helpful for someone with more serious hearing loss, they can also come across as condescending if overdone. You don’t want to make someone feel like you think they are unintelligent when the real problem is hearing loss. In this instance, once again, it is important to as the listener if she or he can hear you clearly. In response, the person with hearing loss may simply say, “Can you slow down a bit?”
With the wide range of hearing ability and style, it is possible to arrive at comfortable communication with just a little effort. Leave the use of these tips to the discretion of the person with hearing loss. You may even be surprised to find that they already have their hearing aids in place, and you can speak naturally!
If you believe you have a hearing loss, remedy the situation today. Contact us at Preferred Hearing Centers to schedule a hearing test.