Listening is demanding!
You might not agree with this statement unless you are part of the 466 million people in the world who are hard of hearing. And the WHO expects this number to rise to 630 million by 2030, and over 900 million in 2050!
Having been diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of ten, I have been wearing hearing aids for about forty years now. From personal experience, I’ve come up with tips to help you accommodate people who are hard of hearing so that they can enjoy social interactions.
By interacting with others, they’ll feel less isolated and that will encourage them to further socialize. Instead of hiding in a quiet corner, that person wearing the hearing aids can have fun mingling with others just as anyone else in the room.
Why is listening a challenge for the Hard of Hearing (HOH)?
Listening is a challenge because you miss so many words. This can create funny situations if your response is much different than what was expected. Because what you have heard is not at all the same as what was said!
Unfortunately, if you have only recently been diagnosed with hearing loss, you might not appreciate the humour, since you are still battling to come to terms with this new way of living. You will often withdraw and avoid social situations in order not to feel embarrassed. And, to avoid the fatigue from concentrating so hard to make sense of what is said.
The worst thing you can do to a person with hearing loss it to respond with “Never mind” when asked to repeat something they have missed. They experience it as an instant dismissal, showing a lack of respect, and making them feel as if they are not important.
Let us talk about how you can help to make social situations better for the HOH.
How can you effectively communicate with the Hard of Hearing?
When it comes to effective communication, all the 7 Little-Known Tips for Effective Communication applies. Still, there are some other tips to follow that will help when communicating with people with hearing loss.
1Always get our attention before speaking to us
Remember that if we do not look at you, it is unlikely that we will hear you (or know that you are talking to us). We also find it hard to determine the direction sounds are coming from. This makes it difficult for us to focus on the sounds we hear.
2Look at us while talking
Not only will this help us to hear more words, but we also use body language clues and lip-reading to assist with comprehending what we hear.
3Give us context
Since we miss so many words or sometimes only hear parts of words, comprehension becomes difficult without any context to guide us. If during a conversation we hear “ot”, it may be pot, rot, or lot. The context will help us to figure out the right word and help us to correctly follow the conversation.
4Do not cover your face or mouth when talking
Not only does this dampens the sound, but it also robs us of a valuable aid (lip reading) that helps us to follow a conversation.
But what about masks?
Due to the pandemic, everybody must wear masks to protect themselves and others. Masks pose a serious challenge for the HOH. Not only does it dampen sound, but also lip-reading cannot be utilized to aid in comprehension.
To assist the hard of hearing, make sure that you face us when talking. Pull down your mask if it is safe to do so. For example, if you are also wearing a clear facial screen or working behind a protective screen.
If this is not possible, you can raise your voice and try to speak as clearly as possible, (but please, do not scream!) If all else fails, simply write down what you need to say.
5Volume does not help
When you realize the person did not hear you, the instinct is to speak louder. But this does not help as it distorts the sound. And you form the words differently, which make it harder to lip-read. You should try and speak clearer, or re-phrase, rather than repeat.
6Be aware of environmental factors
Even normal hearing people struggle in noisy environments. The older type analogue hearing aids increase volume on all sounds (voices and background noise). This makes it difficult for people with hearing loss to follow conversations in noisy environments as it is impossible to pick up voices against all the background noise.
The new digital hearing aids do a much better job of cutting out background noise but it is still not perfect.
Bad lighting can also be a hindrance since it makes lip-reading impossible if you cannot see people’s faces.
In this type of situation, allow the HOH person to choose the setting which is optimally suited for them to follow the conversation. Or, take the courtesy to have a conversation with them in a quiet corner.
7Group conversations are a challenge
People with hearing loss can only focus on one person at a time.
This means that, often, we will miss the first part of the sentence when a different speaker starts talking. And there is no way to predict who the next speaker will be. This is hard to overcome, but it helps if the person next to you can repeat things that you have missed, or fill you in if the topic of the conversation changes.
But most of all, it’s important that everyone in the group understands if the person with hearing loss does not participate that much in the conversation.
For most of you, hearing and listening are effortless. Something that just happens without you putting any effort into it. But not for people with hearing loss. Even though hearing aids help, it is not like glasses which take you from your blurred vision to perfect sight.
Which one of these tips will you put in practice today? Because some of these tips can also help to improve your communication in general!
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Author: Susan van der Walt
Author: Susan van der Walt
Reader | Freelance Writer | Book Blogger