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Having a conversation with someone requires focus, energy and attention. Add a hearing loss to the mix and this can bring extra communication challenges. There are a number of tactics that can be used to help facilitate communication when you have a hearing loss or are communicating with someone who has a hearing loss.
Be open! It is not always obvious to others that you have a hearing loss. Therefore it is always a good idea to make people aware so they can make adjustments to the way they are communicating, if needed.
Ask people to get your attention before speaking. If you are not ready for someone to speak, often the first part of a sentence can be missed and would mean you having to ask for repetition. Getting your attention first is so important and can have a big positive impact on communication.
Use non-verbal cues. A non-verbal cue is information that is communicated in a social exchange that accompanies speech. These cues include; facial expressions, hand gestures, body language and lip reading. You do not have to be taught how to lip read to use this cue but there are classes available for people who want to learn.
You can find lip reading classes in your area using the following link; https://www.hearinglink.org/living/lipreading-communicating/lipreading-classes/
Using context. It really helps to understand the general context of the conversation. This means that even if you don’t hear every word, because you are aware of the context/theme of the conversation you can piece in missing words.
Ask for repetition. If you miss a particular phrase or sentence it is always a good idea to ask the speaker to rephrase the way they have said something using a different word/s.
Try to reduce background noise. If you have are having a conversation in an environment where you have control over the noise levels it is important to try and reduce the noise. For example turning the TV or radio off or moving into another room.
Always face the person you are speaking to. Try and reduce the distance between yourself and the person you are speaking too, for example it is always good to be in the same room as someone when having a conversation.
Don’t raise your voice. Raised voices/shouting can be very uncomfortable for people who wear hearing aids. Also shouting or over mouthing words can alter lip patterns – which often people with a hearing loss are relying on.
Ask. Ask if the person you are speaking to needs to lip-read. If so try to avoid covering you mouth or turning away from them mid conversation.
Speak clearly but not slowly. This ensures you have normal lip movements, facial expressions and gestures. Also speaking too slowly will destroy the natural rhythm of speech.
Think about the lighting. Try not to stand in front of a window for example as this creates a shadow on your face and makes it more difficult to read non-verbal cues.
Lucy-Anne Hastings - Clinical Audiologist