November is a great time to remember how thankful and grateful we should be. At Hearing Innovations, we are thankful for our wonderful patients and our opportunity to do what we love by helping our patients reconnect with those they love and the world around them. When communicating with those who have not treated their hearing loss or find that the severity of their hearing loss requires more than hearing aids to communicate well, we have provided some simple strategies you can use to communicate with your loved ones this Thanksgiving.
1. Gain attention: Gain attention before you begin talking by saying his/her name first. If they have better hearing in one ear, speak on that side of the person. Touch the listeners hand, arm or shoulder to gain attention. This will help prepare the listener for the conversation.
2. Maintain eye contact: Make sure to face the listener with hearing loss, making eye contact. Your facial expressions and body language will give their brain more cues to fill in any gaps that their ears alone may be incapable of picking up.
3. Keep hands away from face: When speaking, keep hands and objects away from your face to produce clearer speech and allow the listener to utilize visual cues (speechreading) to get the most out of your conversation. Speechreading helps improve understanding as many sounds can be seen that are hard to hear, even for a normal hearing individual. For example, the /f/ and /th/ sounds can be very difficult to hear but easily speechread (watch yourself say “first” and thirst” in the mirror and notice the visual difference). It’s important to remember not to talk with food in your mouth or over exaggerate your talking. Even heavy beards and mustaches can hide your mouth.
4. Speak naturally: Speak distinctly, but without exaggeration. You do not need to shout. Shouting actually distorts the words. Try not to mumble, as this is very hard to understand, even for people with normal hearing. Speak at a normal rate, not too fast or too slow. Use pauses rather than slow speech to give the person time to process speech. Give clues when changing subjects or say “new topic.”
5. Rephrase rather than repeat: If you have already repeated something once and the listener still doesn’t understand what you have said, rephrase (use different words of the same meaning) instead. For example: “I’m going to the grocery store.” If not heard even after 1 repeated attempt, rephrase to say “I’m going to the supermarket.” Another option is to ask the listener what part they heard so you can repeat just the part they missed, rather than assume they misunderstood the entire sentence.
6. Talk away from background noise: Reduce background (competing) noise when possible during conversation. For example, turning off the radio or television, moving to a quiet space, or if going out to dinner, asking for a table away from the kitchen, server stations or large parties. Without competing with other distracting sounds, communication can happen more easily and is easier on the brain to interpret and understand.
7. Good lighting is important: Good lighting on your face is important for speechreading. When in a noisy environment, it’s important to sit where there is good lighting so that your face can be more easily seen. Poor lighting can cause shadows on the talker’s face, making it harder to speechread. Lastly, ensure you are not sitting with strong lighting coming from behind, such a when your back is to a window, as that can make the talker’s face harder to see.
8. Use an app to translate from spoken word to written word, or use texting: There are many apps that can now be downloaded to help you communicate with someone who is hard of hearing, many at no charge. Having words on a screen helps to avoid confusion between the talker and listener. For app options, call our office to learn more.
Using these simple strategies, you should find better communication with your friends and family who are hard of hearing this holiday season and beyond. For more information, call us at 330-726-8155. Or visit our website at www.hearinginnovations.com
Yours in better hearing,
Dr. Audra Branham
Board Certified Audiologist