Hearing, and healthy communication in relationships, is the foundation of a strong, successful connection. It requires cooperation, effort, and understanding from both sides, and it’s even more imperative in relationships with hearing loss. Communicating can be both difficult and frustrating for those with hearing loss, as well as their loved ones.
If the special person in your life has hearing loss, you’re likely aware that conversations between the two of you have changed. Here are 11 tips to become a helpful communication partner and maintain positive, stress-free exchanges.
1. Slow down your rate of speech.
Remember that just because a person can hear your voice, it does not mean they can understand your words. When words sound strung together, it’s difficult to discern what is being said. Don’t elongate the letters themselves. Instead, slow down the pace of your speech and carefully modulate your words.
2. Speak naturally with normal expression.
When someone can’t understand you, your natural instinct may be to raise your voice. But louder doesn’t mean clearer. Shouting or raising your voice can often make words sound more distorted. Additionally, try not to speak too high or too low, as those with hearing loss often have trouble hearing different vocal ranges.
3. Choose a quiet place when possible.
Background noise is the most important factor in a listening environment, and it can make a conversation nearly impossible for a person with hearing loss. Be aware of how much noise is in the background of your environment and whether it could affect speech understanding. Try to avoid having a TV on behind you or music on in the car, as well as raucous places like a busy restaurant.
4. Gain your partner’s attention first.
Before starting a conversation, get the listener’s attention so they have time to shift their focus to you. A subtle gesture, such as saying the person’s name or touching them lightly on the shoulder, should do. Don’t clap your hands or wave at them frenetically, as that can be both startling and rude.
5. Look directly at your partner.
Most people, with or without hearing loss, use visual cues when communicating. Lip reading, facial expression, and body gestures all provide valuable signals that can fill in for sounds. Maintaining eye contact with the listener will help ensure they can see your expressions.
6. Don’t cover your mouth.
When you put your hand over your mouth, chew gum, or eat food while talking, it’s more difficult for your loved one to understand what you’re saying, especially if they’re relying on visual cues to comprehend your words. Keep your mouth visible at all times.
7. Try to converse in well-lit places.
Locations with good lighting are recommended so your communication partner can see those valuable visual cues. Be sure to sit so your face isn’t in the shadows. Also avoid windows with sunlight streaming through, as your partner could be blinded by the light.
8. Get closer to your listener.
Talking to a person with hearing loss at a reasonable distance is possibly the most effective way to increase understanding. Conversation becomes challenging beyond 15 feet, so don’t expect your loved one to hear you from another room. Actually, yelling at your significant other across the house is not the best method of communication in relationships, with or without hearing loss.
9. Rephrase instead of repeating.
Too often, when someone isn’t heard and has to repeat themself, they do two things: they speak louder, and they get frustrated. The person who can’t hear may also get frustrated. Rather than increasing the volume, try rephrasing the sentence in a different way that might be easier to hear and/or understand. For example, “We are going to the park with the Smiths on Saturday,” can become “We are meeting John and Sally at the public garden this weekend.”
10. Try writing it down.
You may find discussions are easier when you jot down important points or notes to give the framework of what you want to talk about. Reminders or specific information may also be better on paper, like an appointment time or address.
11. Be patient.
Even without the added challenge of hearing loss, communication in relationships requires patience and empathy. Keep in mind how difficult it can be for a person with hearing loss on a daily basis, and be patient with your loved one.
Hearing Aids and Relationships
Hearing aids are one of the best solutions for better communication in relationships with hearing loss. Today’s hearing devices are light and practically invisible, but may vastly improve hearing in a variety of situations. If you or your loved one has hearing loss, consider trying MDHearingAid’s 45-day trial on high-quality, affordable hearing aids.
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