In a recent discussion, our very own Dr. Jennifer LaBorde and Dr. Margaret Richards highlighted the importance of effective communication for individuals with a hearing loss. In addition to technological solutions, there’s a need for practical communication strategies. Let’s explore some of their insights into what can be done to facilitate better communication and understanding.
Effects of Hearing Loss on Speech
Often, the signs of hearing loss affecting speech comprehension are subtle. Individuals may initially struggle to hear higher-pitched voices, impacting their ability to discern certain consonant sounds. This can lead to misunderstandings, especially when background noise is present. And this can take an emotional toll on individuals and impact their relationships with others.
Environmental Factors Impacting Communication
Environmental factors like distance, background noise, and poor acoustics can affect communication, too. It’s important to minimize distance and reduce background noise to enhance communication. Lighting can also help to create optimal conditions for speech reading, which is a skill that individuals with a hearing loss often develop.
Strategies to Improve Communication
Successful communication requires the effort of each person involved in a conversation. Even if the individual with a hearing loss utilizes hearing aids and active listening strategies, it is crucial that others involved in the communication process consistently use good communication strategies as well. Here are a few to implement to improve communication:
Closing the Distance
Dr. Richards suggests closing the gap between speakers and listeners, especially in noisy environments. Recognizing the impact of distance on speech clarity, she recommends maintaining a ten-foot bubble for effective communication.
Reducing Background Noise
Try to minimize background noise, since even seemingly insignificant sounds can disrupt communication. Practical examples include lowering the volume of the TV or turning music down when engaged in conversation.
Advocacy and Positive Reinforcement
It’s important for individuals with a hearing loss to become empowered to be advocates for their own communication needs. Dr. LaBorde emphasizes positive reinforcement in communication and acknowledging and appreciating effective communication behaviors.
When communication breaks down, there are ways to repair it. Rephrasing means encouraging individuals to rephrase their statements when misunderstood, since repeating the same words may not lead to comprehension. Dr. LaBorde and Dr. Richards also discuss the benefits of taking turns in conversations, particularly in group settings, to alleviate the cognitive load on individuals with a hearing loss.
When communicating with someone with a hearing loss, it’s always a good idea to use the individual’s name before speaking to prime their brain for the upcoming conversation. Avoid sudden changes in topic. If the subject is changed, tell the individual with a hearing loss what you are talking about now. In group settings, repeat questions or key facts before continuing with the discussion.
How The Hearing Center MCC Can Help
If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of hearing loss, don’t delay seeking professional help. If you’re ready to take the next step in your journey to better hearing health, schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment today.
During your assessment, our hearing care leaders will assess your level of hearing loss and review your options for treatment with you so that you can make the best decision for your hearing health.
Or, you can request a callback.