Communication Strategies For You And Your Family
Compiled by Robert M. DiSogra, Au.D., Audiologist/Consultant
" The person with hearing loss never asked for the problem...all they want is compassion and cooperation."
The following strategies should prove to be very effective for you and the person with hearing loss.
1. Be Patient!
The person with hearing loss did not ask for the problem! They must listen harder to everything they hear so that they can gain as many clues as possible to understand any conversation. It’s hard work to “listen” and more frustrating than you can imagine!
2. “If you can’t see the whites of their eyes, don’t bother speaking!”
A hearing impaired person loves visual clues and gestures to help in understanding speech. If you turn and walk away while talking or begin speaking from another room, they may hear you but they will not understand what you are saying. Looking at the person face-to-face is the best method.
3. Speak slowly and distinctly!
When we speak slower we will speak more distinctly…but do not over emphasize your mouth/lip movements! Slower speech helps a hearing impaired person to read lips better.
4. Don’t leave the room!
The loudness and clarity of your voice at four feet from a hearing impaired person is easier to understand than your voice at 15 feet. As you increase the distance from the person, the clarity of speech breaks up. Speech is more muffled. They hear you talking but cannot understand what you are saying.
5. Call their name first – get their attention!
If you say, “Do you want me to get you something to drink, Pat?” the person will probably say, “What?” not because they did not hear you, but because they heard their name! So, put their name first in the sentence then WAIT until you see the whites of their eyes (see #2) and then start talking! It sounds simple, however it’s more work for the person to listen than it is for you to change your sentence.
6. Announce the topic before continuing your sentence.
“Pat (pause), let’s talk about food shopping.” The hearing impaired person is now ready to hear words associated with “food.” If they miss a few words in the conversation, they will be able to figure them out quicker because they are tuned into “food words.”
7. Don’t jump from topic to topic – announce any changes.
“Pat, (pause), now I want to talk about the baby’s birthday party on Saturday.” OK, no more “food” words…now it’s “birthday party” words. It’s so much easier (and less stressful) when the person is focused on each topic. But you need to provide that information!
8. Use shorter sentences – get to the point sooner!
It’s easier to understand, “Pat (pause), do you want coffee?” rather than saying, “I’m going into the kitchen to make some coffee. Would you like some, Pat?” Expected response: “What?” Remember, they heard their name! “Less is more!”
9. In the car…
a. Touch their arm first to gain attention, then use #5, 6, 7 and 8! Noise inside a car varies a lot – especially if a radio is on or the blower is on high for the air conditioner or heater.
b. Lower the radio, heater or A/C! Less noise improves clarity!
c. Always have the “better ear” facing the passengers and away from the window! The person may have to lower or turn one hearing aid off to hear better!
10. In a restaurant…
a. Ask for a corner table or a table near a wall
b. Sit with your back to the restaurant
c. Ask not to sit near the kitchen doors
d. Ask not sit near the bathroom doors
e. Ask not sit under or near any speakers playing music or television screens
f. Be prepared to wait until one or more of the above criteria are met
11. When watching television together, speak to the person during the commercials!!
Aren’t “mute” buttons great?
12. Do not shout or raise your voice while speaking to any person wearing hearing aids!
“Louder is not clearer.” You wouldn’t turn the volume up on radio that’s not dialed in properly, would you? Of course not! You twist the “tuner” dial and tune in the station. Shouting is like turning up the volume on that poorly tuned radio: it’s louder, but not clearer.
The newer digital hearing aids take loud sounds and make them softer and soft sounds and make them louder! Therefore, lower is better!
13. Suggested “outgoing message” for your answering machine:
“Hi this is Pat, I can’t take your call right now but I will call you back. Please speak slowly and clearly and be sure to leave your name and phone number TWICE so that I’ll be sure to call back the right person! Please wait for the beep.”
No more rewinding and replaying the message anymore! You’ve taken control of a very demanding listening task. You’ve nicely asked the caller to help you understand their message without the luxury of being able to see their face (see #2 and #3).
FINAL THOUGHT: all hearing aids are just that – hearing aids! They do not replace or cure the problem. They close the gap between the outside world and the hearing loss. With your help, that communication gap becomes more narrow!
DiSogra, RM Hearing loss in diabetes: communication strategies. AADE in Practice, March, 2017 (a publication of the American Association of Diabetes Educators)