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Living with hearing loss can be a bewildering experience. Aside from not being able to fully hear what people are saying to you, they are using their complete concentration to try to follow. This can leave people not only confused but exhausted by even a short social interaction. As a result, many people with hearing loss, choose to avoid social interaction. However, If people with healthy hearing understood what the experience of someone with a hearing impairment was like they might be able to take the time to communicate differently. Here are just a few things that people with hearing loss wish you knew to make social interactions less stressful.
An Invisible Disability
Hearing loss is classified as a disability, however unlike many other disabilities, it is not always obvious at first. This means that people with hearing loss have to get used to disclosing their hearing loss in new social interactions. This is not always an easy thing to do, but once they get used to it, they simultaneously have an opportunity to disclose to you what could help them to hear better.
People with hearing loss often compensate for what they can’t hear by relying on their sense of sight. This includes lip reading, body language and facial expression to add context to what is being said. Make sure when you speak to someone with hearing loss, that you face them. Avoid covering your mouth with your hands and if you have to wear a mask, extra credit would be to obtain a clear one, to enable lip reading. In addition, make sure you are well lit and avoid speaking to someone from another room if they have a hearing issue. It takes poise to prepare to listen when you live with a hearing impairment, even if you are using hearing aids.
Speaking Clear and Slowly
Many people feel that to communicate with someone with hearing loss, they have to shout. This in most cases does not help, but actually can distort words and lip reading. What is more effective, is to speak clearly and well-paced. Leave pauses at the ends of sentences to give time for the listener to fully process what has been said before moving on. Avoid using unfamiliar slang and make sure to enunciate your words.
Making Sure We Follow
Choose simple statements, over complex ones. When you do switch to a new topic it can be helpful to take a break or even say “new topic” before moving on. This gives the person time to switch gears and stay poised to follow. Check in frequently to make sure that the listener is still following. A good way to do this, non-verbally, is to maintain eye contact when you speak. This allows you to deduce if and when they become confused or lost by the content of what you are trying to convey.
Choosing Your Environment
It is extremely difficult to follow conversations when there are other conversations happening simultaneously. If there is a lot of background noise it can be equally confusing for people with a hearing impairment. If you can control the sounds in your space, make sure to wait to run appliances and turn off the stereo or TV. If you don’t have a choice, you can suggest moving to a quieter location to speak or rely on texting out words on your phone or even old fashioned note passing.
Try Rephrasing Rather Than Repeating
It is all too common for a person with hearing loss to have to ask you to repeat yourself. Often it is a tone or consonant in the statement which makes it hard for you to understand. Try saying the statement differently. This will not only add context to the original statement, but possibly avoid the sound that was causing the miscommunication.
When you struggle to hear it’s easy to miss important details. When confirming plans, be sure to write them or text them. This includes addresses, phone numbers or email addresses, which could cause major inconveniences if misheard.
Treating Hearing Loss
While treating hearing loss does not completely solve communication issues, it certainly makes them less acute. If someone in your life is living with untreated hearing loss, gently suggest that they seek treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!