Communication Strategies: For Communication Partners

Communication Strategies: For Communication Partners

As a family member or friend of an individual with hearing loss it is important to realize the importance of optimal communication.  When encountering someone with a hearing impairment it is essential to offer them courtesies such as those offered to people with other disabilities. Doing all that you can to ensure effective communication will result in less frustration, and more satisfaction, for everyone involved.

The availability of visual cues can significantly help an individual with hearing loss communicate. Therefore, making an effort to speak directly to an individual with hearing loss will result in more effective communication. Talking from another room, with your back turned, or even with a hand covering your mouth can increase hearing difficulties.  Speaking clearly, both slower and slightly louder will also help.  Pausing between phrases will also help the listener have time to process what you are saying. Shouting or exaggerating mouth movements can actually be ineffective methods as they can distort the intended message.

The use of effective clarification strategies can also greatly improve communication.   When the listener has missed something you said, try repeating what you said one time, using clear speech. If the person still does not understand, try rewording. For example, if the person did not understand you when you said, “The forecast is predicting sunshine tomorrow” repeat it once, and then reword your sentence to “Tomorrow it’s going to be sunny”.

Individuals with hearing loss may sometimes appear they have understood what has been said, but sometimes may ‘bluff’ to avoid the embarrassment of asking for information to be repeated. As a communication partner it is important that you ensure the indented message has been understood. Therefore, asking if they understood, or asking questions to determine if the entire message was heard are advisable. For example if you said “Please pick Maria up from her soccer game at 6pm”, and your partner simply nodded, then at the later opportunity you can ask “What time are you picking Maria up from soccer?”, or reiterate “After you pick Maria up from soccer at 6 o’clock, we will have dinner”.

It is also very important to exercise patience and understanding with your communication partner.   Individuals with hearing impairment are encouraged to actively listen, and ask for clarification to avoid communication breakdown as needed. Therefore, as their communication partner you may have to set aside some of the typical social graces like not interrupting while you are speaking, because the sooner it is know that a portion of the conversation was missed, the quicker you can clarify and the conversation can successfully continue. Further, if you are asked to slow down your speech, talk directly to your partner, or modify your level of voice it is simply a tactic to avoid communication breakdown rather than a criticism of your communication ability.

As a communication partner it is also important that you be sensitive of your partner’s impairment.  Choosing optimal environments for communication is very important. For example, if you would like to talk about important financial matters, sit down face to face to do so, rather than talking while watching television. If you are dining out try to choose a quieter restaurant, or make a reservation ahead of the dinner rush, or request a table away from the noisy kitchen. There are many little things we can do on a daily basis to help our loved ones hear well.

If you are interested in learning more about communication strategies feel free to contact one of our six clinics to arrange a counseling appointment for you and your communication partner. A hearing assessment is often necessary to provide the most effective recommendations.