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 ┬ároommate. 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!

How socially isolating is hearing loss?

Hello!

Sometimes people will refuse to wear any hearing aids and will deny that they need them. It is true. They don’t need them, but it can have a pretty dramatic impact on their quality of life. Do you know what is one of the things that they can help with the most? Their social life.

“blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” -Helen Keller

Helen Keller believed that deafness was a “much worse misfortune”. The reason being that most languages are spoken. I remember hearing about a family who had a deaf daughter. A few of the immediate family members could sign, but every so often they would invite extended family to dinner, none of who would know how to sign. At first one of the siblings would try to include the deaf girl, but with a bunch of people, the conversation bouncing around from person to person, and with multiple conversations going on, it was hard for the sibling to sign everything, so they would eventually give up, leaving the deaf girl out of the conversation completely. So the girl eventually just started going to her room after she was finished with her dinner, because it was pretty much impossible for her to follow what was going on. So she missed out on a lot of chances to socialize and communicate with her family, because of this.

Now I am not deaf, but I go to restaurants every so often with a big group of my friends and hearing aids are terrible for those type of situations. People usually go to restaurants specifically to socialize, yet I am there struggling to catch any of the conversations, which does feel very isolating. I feel myself start to shut down after awhile, because the energy I have to use to follow along is incredibly draining. If I didn’t have any hearing aids, I would shut down almost immediately. Every so often I end up in situations where I am without my hearing aids and people are talking to each other. Every time I shut down from the beginning, because it makes me feel like a burden having to get people repeat things a bunch of times and then them eventually saying “never mind” or “It isn’t anything important”. The thing is it is incredibly important to me, because I value what others have to say. I want others to know that I want to listen to them, but at the same time I know it can be frustrating to others. If it is that frustrating to repeat yourself, can you imagine how frustrating it is to be the person who is embarrassing themselves and can’t understand what someone is saying after multiple attempts?

I understand that being blind has its own problems that would seem impossible fr me to overcome, but I don’t think that people often realize just how it can feel to be excluded from a lot of conversations. Being deaf can be similar to living in a foreign country that speaks a language that you can’t speak. Ever. On the plus side, at least deaf people can learn to read English, which definitely helps. I’m not going to pretend that I understand how isolating being completely deaf can be, but being hard of hearing, I do get a little taste of what it is like. This is one reason why deaf communities are important. So that deaf people can experience fluid communication and language with people similar to them.

Thanks for reading!