Communication Strategies

Posted: December 20 2021

Whether you wear hearing aids or not, or communicate regularly with someone who does, there are a number of strategies that can be used to aid in communication. Many individuals have difficulty hearing in noisy environments, and for those with hearing loss these situations become especially challenging. 

The tips listed below will help you and your communication partner(s) to make listening easier and reduce frustration: 

  • If possible, remove unnecessary background noise. For example, turn off fans and other sources of noise in the home; turn off the music when having conversations in the car. 
  • Reduce the distance between the speaker and listener. When sound travels across long distances, it bounces around or reverberates. Reverberation causes speech signals to become distorted and therefore makes speech more difficult to understand.
  • Face the person you are speaking to and ensure their face is visible. Try moving to a well-lit area where the speaker can be observed; lip movements, body language, and facial expressions all play an important role in communication. Having access to these cues can make listening in a challenging environment less difficult.
  • Make sure that you have someone’s attention before speaking to them (and vice versa). This can be as simple as calling their name and making eye contact before delivering a message.
  • Don’t shout! If a person has trouble hearing what you are saying, reduce the distance rather than raising your voice. Shouting only distorts speech as certain speech sounds are not made louder by shouting. For example, try shouting a “t” or “k” sound. 
  • Rephrase your message. If your conversation partner doesn’t understand what you are trying to say, try using different words to convey your message. Similarly, if you don’t understand what someone has said, ask them to say it in a different way.
  • Don’t say “What?”  Instead, let your communication partner know what part of their message you did hear. For example, “I’m sorry, we are going where for dinner tomorrow with who?
  • Speak clearly. Speak at a slightly slower rate and make sure to articulate all sounds accurately and clearly. This will make your message more easily understood.
  • Have realistic expectations. Sometimes it’s just too noisy to be able to communicate well, even for people without hearing loss.
  • Be patient and take time to practice. Habits don’t change overnight! It will take time to adapt your communication style and perfect these skills.

Author: Evan Mahaney, Audiologist, East Coast Hearing

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