Hearing is a vital component of communicating. If a family member has hearing loss, speaking with them in the same ways as before can be challenging. Here are some things you can do to make conversations run as smoothly as possible and repair communication between your friends and relatives with hearing loss:
- Speak naturally. Oftentimes, we try hard to accommodate others with hearing loss, but sometimes that changes the rhythm of our speech and how we pronounce certain words. Speak more slowly and loudly than you normally would, but try to maintain the natural rhythm of your speech.
- Many people with hearing loss begin to rely, to some extent, on speechreading. Make sure that you’re facing the person with hearing loss with whom you are communicating. Don’t cover your mouth while you talk and try to talk in a well-lit room where your mouth and body language are easily visible. Also, avoid chewing gum, eating or exaggerating your lip movements – something we might do on accident when trying to speak more clearly – so your lip movements are as natural and easy to read as possible.
- Pay attention to the other person’s body language. If he or she looks confused, repeat yourself – perhaps rephrasing what you have said. People with hearing loss often get tired of asking, “What did you say?” so if you notice their confusion, you can be proactive. You can also summarize what you’ve said in a natural way. For example, if you told a long story about a friend getting in a car accident, be mindful that your listener may not have caught all of the important details and say something like, “So although the accident was really scary, everyone was safe in the end.”
- Another great tactic is to provide the background or the conversation topic in advance. This might seem a bit mechanical, but being proactive is a good way to avoid confusion and help the listener know what you’re talking about right away. You’ve probably realized that one missed word right from the start can derail the whole conversation. Imagine the hilarity and confusion that would ensue if someone thought you had said “toaster” when you were actually talking about a “roller coaster.”
- Before beginning a conversation, make sure you get your listener’s attention, and don’t try to start a conversation from another room.
- Consider getting your family member with hearing loss a CapTel captioned telephone so they can rely on the telephone and enjoy communicating even when far away. CapTel shows captions of everything a caller says, giving people with hearing loss the confidence and security of communicating over the phone.
- Use gestures when you speak, which can give a lot of context to various topics of conversation.
- Keep a small notepad close at hand. Depending on what type of hearing loss your family member or friend has, certain letters and sounds may be especially hard to hear. For example, the sounds “b” and “v” are often hard to differentiate, even through speechreading, because our mouths look very similar for the formation of these sounds. Thus, jotting down the word quickly when there is some confusion is a great plan.
- Be patient!