Communication Skills

Hello!

So this will be about how to communicate more effectively with both someone with who is hard of hearing or who doesn’t have any hearing loss, though a few will be specifically for those with hearing aids and hearing loss. First I will go over what the listener can do and then how the speaker can help the listener understand better. The reason why I am doing both of those categories is because everything isn’t just on the listener or speaker. They both can do things to help, because communication is a two way street. There are a lot more than what is on this list, but it is a start.

Listener

  • Try to avoid areas with a lot of background noise. Those situations are usually even a bit harder for people with no hearing loss. A person with hearing aids often struggle with filtering out that extra noise a lot more. The technology for hearing aids have gotten much better and will often try to soften those sounds, but they still don’t compare to ears with no hearing loss.
  • Have realistic expectations. As I’ve mentioned before, hearing aids do not “fix” your hearing completely, especially in noisy places. Also, if you are already tired or drained, then it will be much harder to actively listen compared to most people. Know that you will miss parts of conversations no matter what. If you have already spent all day in environments with lots of noise and you had to do a lot of listening in those places, your brain will have a harder time with following along. Funny thing is a consider myself an “outgoing introvert”, someone who likes being with people and being social, but I get incredibly drained from it. The truth might actually be that I just get so drained from listening that socializing turns into really hard work.
  • If you are in an area that isn’t conductive to effective communication, I suggest trying to go to another area or place. For example, if you are in the middle of a restaurant where you are surrounded by talking people all around you or sitting right next to the kitchen door where you can hear all the clattering dishes, try asking your waiter or waitress for another spot that is quicker, like the corner of restaurant. You can even ask even before being seated. Don’t worry about being “too demanding”. Eating out is often a social event, so it would be a shame if you miss most of the conversations, because all you heard the entire night was flushing toilets.
  • If you are hanging out with a group, ask a friend beforehand if they would mind being your communication partner. Let them know that you will be next to them and will periodically ask them to repeat what has been said or ask what the current subject of the conversation is. On a related note, let at least a few of your really close friends or family members know how they can communicate better with use using some of the tips in the “speaker” category, because the more that others know how to help you understand, the better. They do not want you to feel excluded, just because you can’t hear most of what is being said. If you are truly important to them, they want you to be involved too. Let others know how important it is that you hear what they have to say.

Speaker

  • Try to keep your hands away from your mouth or anything else that can block your mouth. Talking while eating is also a lot harder to understand. Another thing is that facial hair may make it harder for others to understand since they may obscure the speaker’s mouth partially or entirely. Also, it helps to have enough light on your face so that the listener can see it clearly.
  • When talking do not overly exaggerate or shout, because often times that doesn’t help the listener. It is a common misconception that it will help, but if someone is trying to read lips while listening, which we all do to some extent to help with understanding speech, they aren’t used to reading lips that move in an overly exaggerated manner or in a painfully slow way. Both of those and shouting also distorts the way you sound when talking.
  • At the beginning of the conversation, there are a few things you want to do. Make sure you are facing the listener if you can. It is a lot harder to understand someone from a different room or when they are facing away from you. On a related note, it is best to actually say their name at first, because now the listener knows to direct their attention on you. It is also helpful to state what the topic is going to be, so that it is easier to follow along, because oftentimes knowing the topic, helps me know what type of vocabulary is to be expected. If we are talking about alcohol, then we know that the word “beer” is more likely to pop up than “deer” or “tear”.
  • Similar to the last tip, if you are about to change the subject, try leading into the next topic rather than just jumping into it. If you are talking about you favorite beer in one sentence, but then talking about the deer you saw in your yard in the next sentence with little/no warning, not only could the jump confuse the listener, but the listener might not even realize the jump even happened.

There are so many more, but this is all I am giving today. If you utilize any of these, I personally thank you for trying to be a better communicator. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to those around you. One interesting thing. I live with a fellow hard-of-hearing  roommate. One reason we like living together is because we are both actually really good at using good communication skills subconsciously. We both automatically keep our hands away from our mouths. We both will make sure we face each other and are in the same room for both of our benefits. Even with her “deaf accent”, she is one of the easiest people for me to understand with or without hearing aids. I’m the same for her. Usually when people think of two hard-of-hearing people talking together, they think of them having two completely unrelated conversations.

Anyways, Thank you!

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Terminology

This is my big list of terms that I’ll be updating as I think of more words that I think is useful to know.

Acquired deafness- deafness that isn’t present at birth and occurs later on in life.

American Sign Language- A language most commonly used in North America that uses hand movements and facial gestures. It is a complete language that is mostly used by deaf people. It has its own unique grammar and syntax. It is also known as ASL.

ASL- acronym for American Sign Language.

Audiogram- the result of a hearing test on a chart. One axis being frequency also known as pitch measured with Hertz and the other being intensity measured by decibels.

Audiologist- medical professionals who diagnoses hearing loss and related conditions and also provides appropriate treatments.

Behind-The-Ear Hearing Aid (BTE hearing aid)- a type of hearing aid where the amplifier sits on top of the entire ear and the mold sits inside the ear.

Bilateral hearing loss- some degree of hearing loss on both sides/ears.

Cerumen- a fancy way of saying earwax.

Closed captions- a text display of the audio from a TV show, movie, or a video on a computer. It is usually displayed on the bottom of the screen. This is pretty similar to, but different from, subtitles.

Cochlear Implants- a type of device that helps deaf people hear to some degree. Only some deaf people can get them and even less want them or can afford them. Also, their hearing isn’t restored to a level that a person with no hearing loss has.

Conductive Hearing Loss- Hearing loss that is a result of an abnormality of the outer or middle ear.

Congenital Hearing Loss- hearing loss present at birth.

Deaf (culturally)- people who are considered Deaf typically uses American Sign Language, is part of the Deaf community, and celebrates hearing loss and Deaf culture. The capital D in Deaf is an important distinction. Deaf people might not be deaf and vice versa. deaf people, Read below for the term “deaf” with a lower case d.

deaf (phyiscally)- a condition of having very little to no hearing in one or both ears. May or may not consider themselves to be Deaf (culturally).

deaf community- includes many people other than people who have no hearing. There are family members of deaf and HoH people.

Decibel (dB) – unit used to measure loudness.

Eustachian Tube- one of my favorite words. Not entirely related, but it is the tube between your throat and middle ear that is responsible for equalizing the pressure in your ear with the pressure outside of your body.

Feedback- when the hearing aid is producing a high pitched squealing due to the hearing aid’s microphone picking up on the hearing aid’s output. It is pretty annoying.

Fingerspell- it is when you use the ASL alphabet to spell out words you either don’t know the sign to or words that doesn’t have a common sign. This is used a lot more than verbal English spelling, because there are quite a few words that don’t have signs.

Gain- the additional intensity that a hearing aid wearing gains by wearing hearing aid(s).

Hard of Hearing- a person who has mild to severe hearing loss that doesn’t consider themselves to be deaf. Usually their primary method of communication is speech and may know Sign language.

Hearing aids- a type of device used to help improve hearing and most commonly used by people with mild to severe hearing loss.

Hearing impaired- a somewhat offensive and outdated term for hearing loss, because it implies that the person is damaged and has something that needs to be fixed.

Hearing people- a person with no hearing loss.

HoH/HH- acronym for Hard of Hearing

(ASL) Interpreter- someone who translates spoken English to ASL and vice versa, so that people with hearing loss can understand surrounding spoken conversations.

Lipreading- a way of increasing understanding by trying to guess which words are being spoken by watching lips, though the degree it can help is limited.

Mainstream education- a child who goes to a local school that isn’t specifically for students with hearing loss or doesn’t have a hard of hearing/deaf program. The hard of hearing students is learning with hearing students, instead of mostly deaf and/or hard of hearing students.

Mixed Hearing Loss- when a person has both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss- hearing damage that is a result of repeated exposure to really loud sounds for an extended period of time.

Reading lips- see lipreading.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss- hearing loss that occurs in the inner ear (Cochlea) or nerves that leads from the ear to the brain.

Service/hearing dog- a dog that aids many different type of people, but in this context will mean dogs that aid deaf and HoH people. They can act as ears and alert their owners of ringing doorbells, alarms, knocking, microwaves, and anything else that may make noises.

Speech–language pathologist- a fancy way of saying speech therapist, which is someone who diagnoses and treats various speech disorders and related conditions.