You may have a loved one, co-worker, or neighbor who has hearing loss which is one of the most common health conditions that people experience today. Hearing loss is a medical condition that impacts hearing and communication. Fortunately, hearing aids – the most common treatment for hearing loss – provide ample hearing support. There are also ways that you can provide critical support and contribute to effective communication. Practicing the following strategies with anyone in your community who experiences hearing loss is a great way to make conversations more easeful.
- Ask them about their hearing needs. Hearing loss can be experienced in many different ways so learning more about how the person you know experiences it is useful. People may have a harder time hearing specific types of sounds and pitches, may hear more clearly out of one year, and have specific strategies to best support their hearing. Knowing the specific ways your loved one or community member experiences hearing loss allows you to provide support in ways that are useful and responsible to their hearing needs. This is also a great way to open the conversation up about their hearing needs which some may feel initially hesitant about.
- Use communication strategies. Learning and practicing communication strategies is a necessary way to engage with people who have hearing loss. There are various types of adjustments and strategies you can implement to support hearing needs. Examples include:
- Beginning by calling their name before you start a conversation. You can do this by saying their name or tapping them on the shoulder which gives them time to be prepared for the conversation.
- Speak in a natural voice, avoid projecting, adn take natural pauses between sentences.
- Rephrase rather than repeat something they haven’t heard.
- Text or email detailed information which can be harder to hear.
- Emphasize nonverbal cues – body language, facial expressions, gestures etc. – which help people with hearing loss follow along.
These strategies can really help people navigate conversations. It is also important to ask them what is most effective for their hearing needs.
- Reduce background noise. It is common to be in spaces with background noise. From restaurants, to parties, and houses with the music or TV on; background noise is normal. But it can make it tough for anyone to hear and make it especially difficult for people with hearing loss. It creates more noise for the brain to have to absorb, process, and make sense of. The brain is already using extra energy adn resources to process sound so even more noise to have to filter through makes it harder. There are many ways you can reduce background noise including: lowering any sources of audio (TV, music) playing, avoiding using household appliances, opting for quieter restaurants rather than busier options, driving with the windows rolled up if you are in a car, having your phone on silent etc.
- Avoid multitasking. Another useful strategy is to avoid multitasking. Though it is common to do things like text, clean, run errands etc. while having a conversation with a loved one; this can take a toll on the quality of conversation you are able to have. Multitasking can produce more background noise, be distracting, and prevent people from being fully present and engaged. You want to make sure that you are able to be completely available for the conversation which helps you provide better support.
- Pay attention. Avoiding multitasking also allows you to pay greater attention and be more mindful during conversations. This enables you to notice if your loved one hasn’t heard something you said, or if you are speaking too fast, and ways you can adjust to better meet their hearing needs.
- Be intentional about the environment. Environmental factors are important to be aware of and intentional about. This includes lighting – maintaining visibility is important as it gives greater access to nonverbal cues and lip reading. This means you should avoid dim lighting as well as places with excessive background noise which make it tougher to participate in a conversation.
Practicing these strategies can really help make spaces, activities, and conversations much more accessible for people who have hearing loss. This is a great way to support the people you know with impaired hearing. Contact us to learn more!