Communication strategies for speakers and listeners with hearing difficulties
Holding a conversation requires a lot of energy and focus. For people with hearing loss or hearing impairments, communication can be extra challenging, even with the use of hearing aids. Communication difficulties may occur during different situations, such as with friends who speak too quickly or when you're in a noisy environment. Here are some skills commonly known as “Communication Strategies” that will help facilitate communication and help everyone be better communicators. It can give you the best chance at hearing and understanding each other well.
Communication strategies for listeners
Reduce background noise, or find a quieter spot
The presence of background noise will make listening to speech more difficult for individuals with hearing loss as well as hearing aid users. You can reduce distracting background noise such as turning down the volume of the television or radio when someone is talking to you. If you are dining outdoors, you may request for a table at a quieter spot, such as an area where the noise lies behind you, or a private room.
Ask for clarification
It is normal to miss out what others say at times, but asking others to repeat multiple times may lead to frustration for yourself and those talking to you. You may ask them for clarification on what you have missed in the conversation. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t hear you. Can you repeat?”, you may try saying, “Did you say we will be meeting at 3pm tomorrow?”.
Point out your issues with hearing
You may inform others that you have hearing loss, and share with them how they can best communicate with you. Most people will be willing to accommodate to your suggestions. You may ask the speaker to slow down when talking, or to face you when they speak.
For hearing aid users, wear your hearing aids regularly, and make sure they are functional.
Making sure your hearing aids are functional, and wearing them regularly, will help you be more prepared to have a conversation as you do not know when others will start a conversation with you.
Communication strategies for speakers
Speak clearly and at a slower pace instead of shouting
Shouting or raising your voice may cause speech to sound distorted and difficult to understand. Practise speaking at a normal volume and at a slower pace.
Communicate at a closer distance
Speech coming from a closer distance is clearer compared to speech coming from afar.
Capture their attention before communicating
It is recommended to capture the listener's attention before you start talking. This can be done through gestures such as tapping the listener's arm, or calling their names from a closer distance. Make sure the location you're at has ample lighting.
Engage in face-to-face conversation
Face-to-face conversation allows the listener to pick up visual cues such as lip movement, facial expressions and gestures, which can further help them understand the conversation.
Rephrase or use shorter sentences
You may try to rephrase or shorten your sentences to help the listener to better understand what you are saying.
Ensure that the listener knows the topic of the conversation
Make sure that the listener knows the topic of the conversation, or inform them when you are changing the topic. This makes conversation easier to follow and helps them to understand the content better.
Write down important information
If the listener is still unable to hear well, you may note down important information on a piece of paper or on your mobile phone. This may help to prevent any miscommunication.
Contributed by Allied Health Services (Audiology)