The process of effective communication is a process that requires at least two active participants. Listening is not just about taking in sound, but actively receiving the message and incorporating what you hear with what you see. Body language, intonation, setting, all are factors that are taken into consideration when you’re analyzing a speaker’s message.
But with people who have difficulty hearing, there can be other factors you will need to take into consideration when engaging in a conversation. Effectively communicating is not just the job of the individual who is hearing impaired. It is also your responsibility as a participant to be sensitive to the fact that certain or all aspects of hearing are a struggle and to help employ positive strategies that facilitate the most effective communication.
You may not always know when you’re speaking with someone who is hearing impaired, but sometimes you will. If family members are living with hearing loss, then you may feel compelled to take the steps to ensure your communication with those relatives is the best it can be. The following tips will help:
Make It Face To Face
Ensure you have face to face conversations. Don’t try and speak to someone from across the room or another room and expect them to get 100% of what you’re saying. By speaking to them face to face you give them a chance to employ visual strategies if they need to, and you can confirm that what you’re trying to say is being received positively by observing their body language.
Don’t Distort Your Speech
You don’t need to speak more loudly or slowly. Instead, just make sure you’re speaking clearly and not too quickly. That means speaking between mouthfuls if you’re sharing a meal, and not excessively covering your mouth while you’re talking.
Address Your Listener
This is particularly useful if you’re in a crowded room. Call the person’s name you’d like to speak with before starting in on your sentence. This gives them a cue that they are the one being addressed and not someone else. In a crowded room, it may be more difficult for someone who is hearing impaired to determine when speech is directed specifically at them without sufficient body language. Addressing them with their name first rids the confusion immediately.
Position Yourself Well
Many people with hearing loss experience it in one ear only. If you know which ear your conversation partner struggles with, try positioning yourself closer to their good ear. You may not need to do this if they are wearing a hearing aid, but it never hurts to ask.
Limit Background Noise
If possible try to limit background noise as much as possible to facilitate the most effective communication. This may be as easy as turning off the TV, sending the kids outside to play, or moving into another room that isn’t so full.
Read Your Listener
Sometimes those living with hearing loss may be hesitant to tell you they didn’t understand what you said. Watch their body language while you’re speaking to find positive signs that show you they are understanding. Don’t be afraid to repeat what you’re saying. And let them know if you’re changing the topic suddenly by telling them what you want to talk about.