Is there someone close to you with hearing loss? Odds are, yes! With over 40 million Americans managing significant hearing loss, that person could be a friend, neighbor, coworker or family member. People with hearing loss face significant challenges to how they comprehend speech and navigate communication. The good news is, when you help make communication easier for someone with hearing loss, everyone benefits.
Get Their Perspective
How do you start considering the hearing needs of others? To start, just ask! If someone is struggling to keep up with a conversation, ask them what would help improve their hearing in the situation. Many people with hearing loss will know techniques they can take advantage of to hear better.
Depending on how they manage their hearing loss, assistive devices may be available that stream sound directly to their hearing aid. Other people may up their speech comprehension when they can lip read. Often, people benefit when they can strategically position themselves in a room to avoid obstacles to their hearing like blowing vents or outdoor noise.
Hearing Access for Everyone
Helping people hear better can make all the difference for people feeling comfortable and supported, whether it’s around friends and family or on the job. Many of the ways you can accommodate hearing access will also make you a more conscientious communicator in general. This is important, because it means you can help people understand you better, regardless of whether or not they have hearing loss.
Always try to face the person you are speaking to. If you are speaking in a professional or academic setting, try to position yourself so everyone in the room can see you while you speak. In work and school settings, there’s usually a lot of important information that is conveyed verbally. Try to make a practice of making sure notes of meetings and lectures are available so everyone can keep up with the material shared.
Stay in Touch
If you have a friend or family member with hearing loss, you’re probably used to answering the question “What did you say?” quite frequently. Repeating helps – although it can seem like a nuisance, it helps the other person overcome the limitations of their hearing. Hearing loss changes our ability to communicate, and that makes it easier to withdraw from being in touch with others. People with untreated hearing loss run a much higher risk of depression, anxiety and isolation than the general population.
While hearing loss can be challenging to manage, today’s world presents a plethora of opportunities for non-verbal communication. If a loved one struggles to keep up with a conversation, see if they would like to communicate by texting, messaging or chatting, emailing or even just writing things down.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
There are other ways to generally help people hear better. Many revolve around making and choosing the settings for conversations that are well-designed and quiet enough to allow for focused listening. When choosing a restaurant, for example, opt for places that aren’t loud and bustling, and look for seating that is not near the clatter of a kitchen. Other spatial features, like curtains, booths, and carpeting can dampen excess noise and make it easier to talk.
When choosing a place for a conversation, positioning yourself near a wall can also help reduce some problems caused by environmental sounds. Walls absorb some room noise and can acoustically help a person locate sound sources more accurately. The future of spatial consideration is coming -with the rise of smartphones, apps are under development to help people find quiet cafes, shops and other social spaces with mapping and user input.
To reiterate, face the person you are speaking to and be patient if you need to repeat what you’ve said. If they prefer, speak directly into their ear to deliver sound more directly. Hearing aids exist now that pair with smartphones, so audio from a phone call or digital device can be streamed directly to the ear.
In bigger group situations, try to say people’s names when you respond to them. People’s names can be an important reference point for someone with hearing loss to follow the action, assisting them in processing who said what.
Get Your Hearing Tested at Hearing Group
Do you find yourself struggling to hear in conversations or meetings? Do you find it difficult to follow conversations in noisy places? If you’ve notice changes in your hearing abilities, consider taking a hearing test. This is the first step to improving your ability to communicate with friends, loved ones, and colleagues. To schedule an appointment, contact us today at Hearing Group!