Hearing tactics – ways to help the conversation breakdown
When you experience a drop in your hearing levels, lots of things you took for granted about your hearing disappear and you find yourself working much harder to follow conversations. What happened naturally, now takes effort and more concentration. There are things you, and your loved ones, can do to ease the stress associated with communication when someone has impaired hearing. Try these tactics:
Hearing tactic #1
Ask the people in the conversation if you can turn down any background noise. If you are having a chat with someone at home, turn off the TV or the radio so you can focus on the conversation. If you’re in the car, turn off the radio and wind up the window to cut out traffic noise. If you are in a restaurant, call ahead early and ask if you can sit in a quiet corner and make sure your back is to the wall – that way you will only be getting noise from the sides and to the front, which will help focus on the sound you want to hear.
Hearing tactic #2
Turn on the lights! When we listen, we read lips (whether we are aware of it or not) and read facial expressions. This is hard to do in a dimly-lit room. Make sure you can see the speaker’s face clearly. All the cues you get from their face will add to the hearing information you’re getting, helping you piece together the conversation. Give your communication partner clues as to how they can help you hear better – slow their speech just a little (not too slow – you want to get the flow of the conversation) and to raise their voice level slightly (no shouting as this distorts the sound).
Hearing tactic #3
Ask your communication partners not to talk to you from another room. Sound doesn’t travel well through walls or around corners, even for people with good hearing! Conversation is easier when everyone is in the same room. If you are engrossed in listening to something else, get them to either call your name or tap you on the shoulder, before they initiate the conversation. You want to be focused on what they say, not miss the first part because you haven’t realised you were being spoken to.
Hearing tactic #4
Find the best place to sit when you are in large venues such as at the theatre or at church. This may be in the front row or where the loop system is (loop systems are useful to know about – find out if your hearing aid is equipped with a Telecoil). Prepare yourself as much as possible before attending outside events. Read the synopsis of the movie, get the agenda of a meeting before you attend, and discuss what went on afterwards with your communication partners. Not only will this reinforce what your heard but will also help improve your auditory memory.
Hearing tactic #5
Tell people you have a hearing loss. Most people are willing to adjust their communication process if they know you can’t hear as well as others (rather than thinking you are rude if you don’t respond to a question). Let them know what will help you hear better – face you, speak a little slower, raise their voice a little. Noisy places (shopping centres, restaurants, city streets) are challenging places to hear, even when you have good hearing. If you miss part of what has been said, repeat back what you heard then ask them to recap on the bits you missed. This shows you’ve been listening and will make the conversation process easier.
And finally, please wear your hearing aids! The more you wear them the better you’ll get in challenging situations and the more you’ll love being a part of the conversation.