How to communicate with hearing aid wearers
Wearing a hearing aid requires time to adjust. For first time hearing-aid wearers, some encouragement and support from family, friends and colleagues is essential. This will comfort and help them to communicate better through the transition period. Here are a number of simple things you can do to communicate with hearing aid wearers easier.
- Maintain eye contact
It is important to see each other and maintain eye contact. Face the person who has the hearing loss. Make eye contact. Your facial expressions and body language add important information to the message being conveyed. For example, you can “see” a person’s excitement, happiness, confusion, or frustration by watching their facial expressions or body language.
- Reduce background noise
Try to reduce background noises around you when people are speaking, for example, turn off the television or radio. Move to a quiet space away from the noise source. When going to a restaurant or making dinner reservations, ask for a table away from the kitchen, server stations, entrance way or large parties.
- Good lighting is important
Face the hearing-impaired person directly, on the same level and in good light whenever possible. Lighting on your face is important as a person with hearing loss can lip read to assist in hearing. Through focusing on the speaker’s mouth, they add visual cues to the auditory cues. This helps the brain to fill in the missing gaps and allows the listener to “hear” better even when the speaker did not elevate their voice.
So, when in a restaurant or other social gathering, sit where there is good lighting so that your face can be more easily seen. Position yourself so that the light is shining on the speaker’s face, not in the eyes of the listener.
- Rephrase rather than repeat
If the listener has difficulty understanding something you said, repeat it once. If they are still having difficulty find a different way of saying it. Rephrase it in a simpler way. Use different words with the same meaning.
For example: “I am going to the grocery store.” Repeat once and then rephrase. “I am going to the supermarket,” If he or she did not understand the words the first time, it’s likely he or she will not understand them a second time. So, try to rephrase it.
Another option is to ask what the person did not understand and just repeat that phrase or word. For example, “grocery store” is what was not understood, so just repeat those words “grocery store.”
- Keep hands away from your face
When talking, try to keep your hands away from your face. You will produce clearer speech and allow the listener to make use of visual cues by keeping your mouth and face visible.
In addition, most listeners can improve their perception by watching the talker’s face – also known as speechreading. It is important to not over exaggerate your talking, talk with food in your mouth or chew gum when talking to a person with hearing loss.
- Speak naturally
Speak distinctly, but without exaggeration. You do not need to shout. Shouting distorts the words. Try not to mumble, as this is extremely hard to understand, even for people with normal hearing.
Speak at a normal rate, not too fast or too slow. Use pauses rather than slow speech to give the person time to process speech. Give clues when changing subjects or say “new topic.”
- Gain attention
Gain the listener’s attention before you begin talking, for example, by saying his or her name. If the person with hearing loss hears better from one ear, move to that side of the person.
Also consider touching the listener’s hand, arm or shoulder lightly to gain attention. These simple gestures will prepare the individual with hearing loss to listen and not miss the first part of the conversation.
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