Successful communication between two conversational partners requires intentional efforts from all those involved. Our hearing makes it possible to identify environmental sounds, localize the source of sounds, understand speech and participate in conversations. Hearing loss may greatly impact one’s ability to actively follow and participate in conversations, especially in unfavorable listening environments.
While hearing instruments may improve access to speech and sound, they do not reverse hearing loss and damage to the auditory system. Your partner with hearing loss may struggle to hear even with their hearing instruments at times, especially when in noisy environments. Hearing instruments are a great tool to have in addition to implementing communication strategies.
Below are helpful tips for the individual with hearing loss and their conversational partners to help enhance communication.
1.) Position yourself so that you are face-to-face with your conversational partner to enhance facial cues and speech reading abilities. If possible, ensure that your mouth is not covered and that there is good lighting in the environment.
2.) Be conscious of speaking to your partner with your back turned or facing away from those listening.
3.) When possible, try to minimize distracting background noise. When you cannot avoid background noise, ensure that the person with hearing loss sits with their back to the noise. This is especially important when wearing hearing aids so that the microphones face the speaker of interest.
4.) Be intentional in picking restaurants that have enough lighting and that do not play loud music. Request seating in a quieter corner and away from the kitchen or bar. Consider going to a restaurant at a quieter time to avoid excessive background noise. If in a group, it may be helpful to sit at a round table so that the person with hearing loss can see all conversational partners’ faces for speech reading purposes.
5.) Speak clearly and distinctly. Do not shout or greatly exaggerate the movement of your mouth. Rather, speak naturally to your conversational partner. Shouting or raising your voice especially loud may distort speech further.
6.) Avoid speaking rapidly and with too much detail all at once. It may be beneficial to slow down the speed in which you speak and to add pauses between sentences.
7.) Do not attempt to speak to others when in different parts of a home. This may create frustration and communication breakdowns. Speak to each other in the same room where both partners can see each other whenever possible. Conversations are a two-way street and depend on both partners for successful communication!