Do you watch The Crown, Netflix’s show about the British monarchy? I watch each season with my daughter and the latest was no exception. We enjoy the pageantry and the intrigue, but this time, we also learned something — a better way to communicate with hearing loss. Season 4 of The Crown was set during Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister so she was a prominent character. I always watch Netflix with the closed captions on, and usually I need them urgently for The Crown because of the British accents. But whenever Margaret Thatcher’s character would speak, I could understand without the captions, since she enunciated each word to perfection.
Margaret Thatcher had a very distinct way of speaking and the actress playing this role did a wonderful job matching her vocal style. Thatcher spoke slowly and calmly, drawing out the consonant and vowel sounds so that each one was audible. Sometimes it sounded almost monotone, certainly upper crusty — some would say pompous — yet the style held people’s attention. And it made her very easy to understand. Apparently Thatcher did not always speak like this, but made a strategic decision to alter her speech to advance her political career. It seems to have worked!
Speaking Slowly and Clearly Makes Communication Easier
Because it was fun, my daughter and I started reading the captions out loud along with the dialogue as if we were Margaret Thatcher. Then we continued conversing in this style, making up our own plot points. We were having a ball — laughing and talking — and I could hear every word.
My daughter has a soft voice, and like most teenagers, speaks rapidly. I sometimes have trouble keeping up. But as Margaret Thatcher, my daughter’s pitch dropped and her speed slowed. She was easier to lipread and I could understand her easily. We continued to speak like Margaret Thatcher for several days, which drove the rest of the family crazy. But we didn’t care.
While this all started in good fun, it highlights how important one’s manner of speaking can be in good communication — especially when conversing with someone with hearing loss. Using communication best practices like clearly enunciating words and speaking at a moderate pace (like you would talk to Siri) give us a leg up on speechreading and therefore, understanding. When combined with other strategies like getting our attention first, keeping mouths uncovered and providing context up front, conversation with someone with hearing loss can be much easier. Even in your normal voice…
Readers, what communication best practices do you recommend?