Communication Strategies: For Listeners

Communication Strategies: For Listeners

A hearing impaired audiologist once said: “When someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem”. Individuals with a hearing loss and their communication partners often agree with that statement. Communication is in fact a two way street, frustration can be experienced by the hearing impaired individual who is struggling to hear, and friends or family members who feel they are being neglected by the individual with hearing loss, who appears to ignore them or routinely asks for information to be repeated. This article is the first of two that will outline strategies that an individual with hearing loss can utilize to improve communication. The second installment will discuss strategies a hearing impaired individual’s communication partner can utilize to ensure they are heard without them or the individual with hearing loss incurring additional strain and frustration.

Assertiveness can greatly benefit an individual with hearing loss. By acknowledging your hearing loss people will be more likely to look directly at you when talking, and speak clearly when addressing you. If your conversation partner knows that you have hearing difficulties, there may be fewer misunderstandings if you do not respond appropriately, or if it appears that you are ignoring them. Furthermore, if you are in a noisy environment you can seek preferential placement or seating to enhance hearing. If your hearing loss is known you may also be offered assistive listening technology by the establishment. If you have more difficulty with a soft or fast speaker its worthwhile to ask them to adjust their speech to enhance your hearing, thereby improving your conversation. It really does pay to be your own advocate.

Concentrating not only on what the talker is saying but how they are saying it can also greatly improve hearing and comprehension. Speech reading can be an effective communication strategy for people with hearing loss. Speech reading is a method of using visual clues from a speaker’s face to decode the contents of spoken language. We all speech read to some extent, but many people with hearing loss rely on it to provide a large percentage of their communication.  Aside from speech reading try to concentrate on the topic of conversation, even if you are missing a few words or phrases the use of contextual clues will often help ‘fill in the blanks’.

The use of effective clarification strategies when information is missed can also improve communication.   From time to time even individuals with normal hearing will miss conversation. The most effective method to ask for clarification is to be as specific as possible. Rather than simply saying “What” or “I didn’t hear you”, if even a small portion of the utterance was heard then include it in your question. For example if the communication partner said “the kids on the street are selling lemonade”, and you simply heard “selling lemonade” in asking for clarification you can say “who is selling lemonade?”.  The more information is repeated the easier it will be for the communication partner to provide the essential information that was missed.

It is also beneficial if you can anticipate difficult listening environments, and therefore prepare for them. For example, if you are considering visiting a new restaurant it is worthwhile to consider the size as larger family restaurants or bars tend to be noisier. Making a reservation or arriving early so that you can pick a seat at the table furthest from the noisy kitchen, and choose to sit with your back to a brightly lit window so you can reduce glare can also be helpful. In addition, familiarizing yourself with the restaurant’s menu online before going will free up your attention to listen more actively. It pays to be as prepared as you can to minimize listening difficulties.

There are many other strategies that can be utilized to improve communication. If you have a hearing impairment and are interested receiving one-on-one or group counseling with a hearing care professional please contact us at Hearing Institute Atlantic to inquire.