Better communication April 27 2017

Better communication for those with hearing loss

By Marie-Pierre Genest, audioprosthetist, Groupe Forget

Wearing hearing aids helps people rediscover the pleasure of hearing. Yet even with the best hearing aids available, certain communication situations may be difficult

Communication is a two-way street. The hearing-impaired person with hearing aids and his or her counterpart both play important roles in reducing comprehension issues that can arise in a discussion. Adapted communication strategies can help both people.

Communication strategies for people with hearing loss

  • Tell your conversation partner that you are hard of hearing;
  • Ask the person to rephrase what they said;
  • Indicate which part you did not understand;
  • Ask the person to repeat what they said;
  • Do not pretend to understand;
  • Stay calm and relaxed during the conversation;
  • Move to a different place or get closer to the other person to help the sound reach your ears or to be able to read lips more easily;
  • Decrease ambient noise at its source if possible;
  • Suggest specific strategies to your counterpart (“Could you please speak slower, louder, spell out the word, etc.”);
  • Ask conversation partners to always speak facing you and close to you;
  • Explain to your conversation partners how important it is for only one person to speak at a time;
  • Before a group meeting, pick out one person you would like to speak with and sit next to him or her;
  • Use a notepad so your conversation partner can write out the words you have trouble understanding.

Strategic positioning

  • Sit in a well-lit location near the speaker;Round table
  • Don’t try to communicate if you can’t see your counterpart;
  • Sit at a round table, if possible, to facilitate lip reading;
  • Eliminate noise sources by standing or sitting near a wall (See image.);
  • Position yourself where you can see the faces of your conversation partners clearly, to be able to read lips and facial expressions;
  • Keep windows behind you to prevent backlighting.

Optimized lip reading

  • Use visual clues like facial expressions and body language to compensate for the sounds or words you did not hear;
  • Make it a habit to look directly at the face of the person speaking, even if you seem to be understanding well;
  • Identify the subject of the conversation and avoid interrupting your conversation partner;
  • Concentrate on the meaning of the sentences (use the context to understand).

Lip reading is not a replacement for hearing, but it can help you understand better. It’s not easy, though. Learning to lip read is like learning a new language: it takes time and practice.

Tips for friends and family

  • Get the person’s attention gently before beginning to speak;
  • Choose a well-lit, calm place for your conversation;
  • Avoid places with ambient noise;
  • Stand or sit facing the person;
  • Speak slowly and clearly, but do not yell or exaggerate your pronunciation;
  • Do not hide your lips, or lower or turn your head;
  • Tell the person the subject of the conversation and let them know when it changes;
  • Use simple, short sentences. Rephrase sentences that were not understood;
  • Use different words to restate a message that wasn’t understood;
  • Use relevant gestures;
  • Write down key words if necessary;
  • Do not speak to the person if you are not in the same room.

Meeting with your audioprosthetist will help you learn the best communication strategies for your particular needs.

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