Spring is a great time to reconnect with your community, friends, and family. Whether you like to have a picnic in the park, take a walk on the beach, or get into some serious outdoor adventure, the spring brings new opportunities for activities shared with others. When you look ahead to these opportunities, you might wonder what hearing has to do with it. The quiet of the woods on a spring day might be best unbroken by other noises, voices, or music! Although the enjoyment of some springtime activities can rely more on sound than others, our connections with others tend to be centered around conversation. Particularly when you think of these springtime activities as a way to reconnect with others, your ability to communicate is a cornerstone of these relationships. Each May, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association sets aside the month to celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month. This month is an opportunitity to recognize the tireless efforts of those family members and professionals who serve the community with speech and hearing impairments. The month is also a time to reflect on what you can do to help those in your life with hearing and speech needs. Let’s think about the ways that you can support those in your life with hearing loss, particularly as you take part in outdoor activities together. When you get out in the world, just might find that there are practical steps you can take to connect with those who have hearing loss. The following are some helpful tips for building and maintaining those connections.
Set the Stage
If you have a friend or loved one with hearing loss, one important step you can take to facilitate conversation is to set the stage for success. If you’re planning a picnic with a group, you can be sure to choose a place with minimal background noise. The noises from the street and surrounding area can be enough sonic competition to make it difficult for that person to carry on a conversation. Choosing a quiet area might be enough to facilitate conversations during the picnic, party, or family reunion. While you are at the event, you can do a lot to help that person communicate, as well. Try to position yourself nearby the person with hearing loss in group conversations. If you notice that person struggling to understand what the group is saying, you can play the subtle role of interpreter, repeating some key points or questions and rephrasing in a way that makes it easier to communicate. You can provide this assistance in ways that don’t make your friend or loved one feel singled out or patronized, simply assisted and supported.
Many people with hearing loss have a good sense of what you can do to help them. When you are out on a walk at the beach, for example, that person might request that you stand on the other side, making it possible to speak into the “good ear.” Others know that it is easier to communicate when your face and mouth are visible. By subtly monitoring facial expressions and mouth movements, you are providing visual context for communication. When someone with hearing loss makes a request for accommodation, try to keep it in mind for the next time you communicate, making future interactions even easier than before.
One of the best things you can do to assist someone with hearing loss this spring is to encourage treatment. Even out on a walk in the woods, having hearing aids can make it possible to hear birds and wildlife, enriching the experience of the sounding world. Your encouragement might be all it takes to help them take the step toward scheduling a hearing test. If you’re ready to have that conversation, don’t put it off any longer. The theme “Connecting People” for this year’s Better Hearing and Speech Month is the perfect opportunity to initiate the conversation. You don’t need to do more than ask your community member, friend, or loved one about their experiences with hearing and to respond with a concerned, listening ear. When they disclose a situation that made hearing difficult, you can take the opportunity to suggest a hearing test.