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Six Ways Those With Hearing Loss Can Better Communicate

hearing-loss-communicationShari posts regularly on Living With Hearing Loss where this post first appeared. You can find a number of articles on this topic there. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter

Those of us with hearing loss must sometimes rely on people with normal hearing to help us have better conversations and more successful interactions with the hearing world. But we must also take responsibility for stacking the deck in our own favor. By following some simple rules of thumb, we can put ourselves in a better position to hear and communicate as best as is possible. Here are my tips. Please share yours in the comments.

SIX STEPS THOSE WITH HEARING LOSS CAN TAKE TO SUCCEED WITH COMMUNICATIONS

1.  Be assertive and inform others: Don’t be shy about disclosing your hearing loss. If someone does not know you have a hearing loss, there is very little chance he will think to speak extra clearly, remember to face you and not cover his mouth while he speaks. I recently attended a retreat where we all had to introduce ourselves to the group the first day. I made a point to disclose my hearing loss at that time and it worked wonders. Not only were people considerate when speaking with me, nobody got upset when I sat right by the speaker in each of the sessions.

2.  Put others at ease: If you seem comfortable with your hearing loss, others will be as well. Let people know that they can ask you about it. I often joke to people saying, “If you say something to me and I don’t answer, or if I look at you like you have two heads, please don’t think I am rude, it is probably because I didn’t hear you.” I find this makes people more forgiving of a social faux pas or two, and more willing to try again to engage you in conversation.

3.  Stay informed: Since context is so important in following conversations, try to stay abreast of current news and social happenings. It is easier to understand a new name (of a country or a celebrity) if you have seen it written about recently.

4.  Maintain good energy: This may be easier said than done, but because hearing takes extraordinary concentration for those with hearing loss, it is important to approach communication as well rested and alert as possible. Eat healthy food, try to exercise regularly, and be sure to get enough sleep. Also, don’t be afraid to take breaks from communication if your energy is lagging.

5.  Learn to ask questions in a balanced way: This one is particularly hard for me, because I like to know everything that is going on, so sometimes, I drive people crazy with questions to clarify what they said or to repeat something. I am working to get comfortable that in certain situations, I will only be able to “sufficiently” follow the conversation, rather than “fully” follow every detail. This does not apply at the doctor, or in another situation where full knowledge is imperative, but in social situations, not following every detail is probably ok some of the time. When I can scale back my clarification questions, we all enjoy the interaction more.

6.  Roll with the punches: I can be sensitive at times that I am missing things, so I need to remind myself to be grateful for what I can hear. I may not catch every detail, but I can still enjoy being with others. Maintaining a sense of humor about the inevitable miscommunications is also key to more enjoyable communications.

Readers, what tips do you have for communication success?

Shari Eberts

Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing loss.

Shari Eberts

Thursday 18th of February 2016

I am sorry you are having trouble. Hearing loss is definitely hard. Have you visited an audiologist? He/she might be able to help you. I wish you lots of luck and thank you for sharing your experiences with me.

Martin

Thursday 18th of February 2016

I have some serious issues with my hearing loss Now a days I can NOT concentrate in a conversation Not even pay attention most of the time especially When I can catch the topic at the beginning I need to star it so I know what we are talking about If no I can follow, and when Someone asks I am lost It's easy for me see anything ,anywhere better than pay attention What can I do ? Or how can I get back my attention in the chat ??

Alina

Wednesday 10th of February 2016

It is important for people to know that 90%+ of hearing losses can be helped with appropriate amplification. Hearing aids are getting better all the time, and the investment is well worth it for the improvements in quality of life. Of course, I wear hearing aids and I know just as well as anyone else who wears hearing aids that they are not perfect. It is not the same as restoring our normal hearing. However, my life is so much easier with my hearing aids in that I do not go out anywhere without them. Incorporating good communication skills is a must, as well, but wearing my aids allows me to keep the embarrassment and miscommunications to a minimum.

Shari Eberts

Wednesday 10th of February 2016

I completely agree! Thank you for raising these important points.

Alana Mautone (@RamblinGarden)

Friday 5th of February 2016

My mother in law, who is 88, has been losing her hearing the last couple of years. I realize your blog post isn't about that type of hearing loss but it is still hard for her. At a court hearing (guardianship for her disabled son) she had to admit, in court, to the judge that she was hard of hearing and couldn't hear him. This must have hurt her pride so much. We who hear must remember that one day, this could be us, too.

Shari Eberts

Saturday 6th of February 2016

Thanks for your comment. Has she tried a hearing aid? That could be a big help.

Diane

Friday 5th of February 2016

I learned the hard way, as a child, embarrassed about being the only hearing impaired, teased at school daily. So, as an adult, I hated to have to tell people too due to the anger I felt during school days. Therefore, if you don't tell people, and they ask you a question; you giving them a wrong answer, they think you're just stupid!! I learned over the years to tell them you are hearing impaired/deaf, to please face you; whatever it takes to get the communication rolling in a good way. Hearing people will either (from my experience) say either "forget it/never mind." Or be happy to repeat what was being said, or write on a paper. The "ignorant" people walk away (scared/not know how to deal with deafness. Now, that I am totally deaf (going for a Cochlear Implant at age 61); I use my CaptionCall phone, and tell people that I am totally deaf, that I am reading what is being said by them in captioning!! It works wonder, especially that I can save the calls, to review later. I'm also blessed to have captioning on TV also. Before I even go out, I make a note to either myself (direction, etc); or to the person I'm going to see (CVS, etc); to explain "I am deaf, I am here for....... And it works wonder!!! No need to hide in your home, depriving yourself of being able to go out into this big wide world, feeling sorry for ourselves. It's our World just as much as it is for the hearing world!! We may have Deafness....but we are not allowing Deafness to have us!!! I say the same thing for my past 10 years with MS as well!!

Shari Eberts

Friday 5th of February 2016

Good for you! Thanks so much for sharing your ticks of the trade. Good luck with the new CI.

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