Audiologists have a unique opportunity to aid patients navigate the challenging world of communicating with hearing loss. In my latest post for Ida Institute, I provide communication best practice tips that audiologists can share with their patients and their patients’ conversation partners. See an excerpt from the piece below. To read the full article click here.
Communication Tips For Audiologists To Share With Patients
When I first started losing my hearing, conversations became more difficult. Whether it was at work, or socially with friends, I began to miss small details of the discussion, especially punch lines of jokes. Even when I began wearing hearing aids, these problems persisted, especially in noisy environments. Sometimes I would pretend to hear, other times I would ask for a repeat, but what I never did was ask my conversation partner to use communication best practices, because I didn’t know about them.
Simple things like keeping your mouth uncovered, or making sure to face the person when you are speaking seem obvious to me now, but early on in my hearing loss journey, they were not. When audiologists teach their patients how to have better conversations, with or without the use of hearing devices, they help patients stay connected with the important people in their lives, a primary goal of person-centered cared.
Improving Conversation for People With Hearing Loss
Productive conversation with someone with hearing loss requires effort. Finding an appropriate location with low noise and good lighting is just the first step. Both sides of the conversation must be willing to follow communication best practices including taking turns speaking and maintaining eye contact. People with typical hearing bear the bigger burden, and may need to adjust the pace and style of their speech, but people with hearing loss must also take responsibility for the success of the communication.
Tips For The Conversation Partner With Typical Hearing
Hearing aids are miraculous tools, but communication best practices are equally important, particularly in difficult listening environments. Small changes in behavior can make a huge difference in the quality and ease of conversation for people with hearing loss. These include:
1. Get their attention before speaking. Someone with hearing loss may not realize you have begun speaking to them right away and miss important context in the first few phrases. If you give them the heads-up first, they will not need to play catch-up.
2. Provide context. Knowing what the topic of conversation is makes it much easier for the person with hearing loss to make educated guesses about the words they miss. If they know the conversation is about clothing, it will be easier to convert “—oot” into suit rather than fruit.
Click here for more communication tips for the conversation partner.
Tips For The Person With Hearing Loss
While many communication best practices rely on communication partners to make accommodations, there are also things the person with hearing loss can and should do. These include:
1. Arrive well rested. I often hear better in the morning after a quiet night of rest and relaxation for my brain. Scheduling important conversations for early in the day allows you to bring your strongest hearing to the meeting. If this is not possible, try to factor in rest time ahead of the event to recharge your listening batteries.
2. Understand your hearing. Each person’s hearing challenges are unique such that each person must learn to identify which listening situations are most problematic for them, and through trial and error, what adjustments or accommodations are most helpful.
Click here for more communication tips for the person with hearing loss.