Effective Communication

“When someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.” -Mark Ross, PhD

There is a difference between listening and hearing. Listening involves the physiological aspect of sound traveling through the ear, and sound being perceived. Hearing, however, involves the processing and understanding of spoken information. In order to effectively communicate with someone who has a hearing loss, follow these four general guidelines:

1. Use Clear Speech
As the speaker, it is extremely important to carefully annunciate your message to help the listener improve understanding. Be sure to use key phrases like, “I think…” to alert the listener that he/she will be hearing a thought or emotion. To queue the listener that you are going to shift gears into another topic, say something like, “Now I want to talk about something else.” If after speaking clearly and using key phrases, the listener is still having trouble, it is best to ask, “What can I do to help you understand?” This is the best way to ensure the listener that you, as the speaker, truly want to ensure that they are understanding.

2. Anticipatory Strategies
This strategy is for the listener with hearing loss. Before entering a communication situation, think about who will be there and what might be said. Once you have anticipated possible vocabulary, dialogue, and names for a particular situation, practice speech‐reading those words with your spouse or conversation partner. One anticipatory strategy is to remain up-to-date with current events: know what the latest news stories are, as these might come up when running into a friend, or even a discussion in the office. Another is to ask for meeting agendas in advance to be prepared and be able to both visually and audibly follow along. If you are attending a movie or play, read the reviews or synopses before arriving; this information will provide you with a setting and possible time in history of when the cinematic feature is supposed to be taking place. If you plan on going to an office or family reunion, review the names of party guests before arriving; hearing in noisy places is hard enough without hearing loss. Lastly, if it is most comfortable for you to simply ask, “What are we talking about?” feel free to ask what the topic of conversation is.

3. Conversational Repair Strategies
The following strategies will help you, as the speaker, to understand what is being said. Notice the requests being made are very specific.
Let us pretend your son told you, “The phone in the living room is broken,” only you missed some parts. If you:
-Completely missed the statement? Request to, “Please repeat what you said.”
-Are unsure of what is not functioning? Ask, “What in the living room is broken?”
-Are unsure of which phone is broken? Ask, “Which phone is broken?”
-Are unsure of what the deal with the phone is? Ask, “The phone in the living room is what?”
-Want to confirm you heard correctly? Confirm, “The phone in the living room is broken?”

4. Communication Strategies
These general communication strategies will reduce the need for repetition and increase overall effectiveness of speech. The following apply to both the speaker and the listener.
-When in a crowded environment, attempt to find the least noisy area and choose to have a conversation there.
-Be sure to get the listener’s attention by tapping him/her on the shoulder or calling their name.
-Be sure everyone in the conversation is facing each other.
-If, as the listener, you are unable to understand something after asking for paraphrasing, try having the speaker spell out key words.

5. Dealing with Expectations of Others
As a listener who is hard of hearing, it is important not to have unrealistic expectations of everyone communicating with you–especially if they are unaware of your situation. Be sure to share these communication strategies with others to maximize the effectiveness of all your conversations. Lastly, be sure to thank your communication partners!

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