Connecting People | May is Better Hearing and Speech Month!
Living with hearing loss can be difficult at times. As a hearing loss develops it slowly erodes parts of words and sentences that you can perceive, making everyday conversation between friends, family, and co-workers and source of stress and anxiety. It’s all too common that you have to ask people to repeat themselves and over time you may just defer to just pretending to understand. This however can cause more complications than it solves. As you start to respond to questions or statements inappropriately, it can cause the people in your life to be concerned.
It’s important to remember that a loss of hearing is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. 1 in 8 people in the US of all ages suffer from hearing loss, 12 and up. If it’s not affecting you now, it’s likely that down the road it will become an issue. This May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM), an annual month-long campaign led by ASHA (American Speech-language-Hearing Association) to raise awareness around hearing loss and promote the importance of treatment. The theme for 2022 is “Connecting People”. It’s a great time to ask yourself how you connect with those around you despite a hearing impairment.
Supporting Loved Ones with Hearing Loss
Hearing loss doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Not only is it making it hard for you to your loved ones, but they also feel the effect. It is likely that without addressing a hearing loss, rifts can occur in even your closest relationships. Even with the use of treatment, communication can be a challenge, however, utilizing different communication strategies can improve your relationships and overcome challenging communication obstacles. Here are a few communication strategies to suggest to your supportive loved ones.
Ask them to face you when speaking
When you face the speaker, you have a chance to utilize many visual cues which become essential as the sense of hearing becomes increasingly weakened. This can include reading lips, facial expressions, and body language. Another helpful aspect of facing the speaker is it allows you both to maintain eye contact. The eyes say a lot and can cue a speaker when you become lost in conversation. Ensure that the speaker’s face is well lit and in view. Ask them not to speak to you from another room as this eliminates all of these essential aids in communication.
One of the most common signs of hearing loss is when you have to ask people to repeat what they’ve said, more and more often. However, hearing loss is different for everyone. Some people lose high frequencies while others struggle with low sounds. A particular sentence might have a tone that is just out of hearing range. Instead of repeating more than once ask them to try rephrasing the sentence. This may avoid the tone struggled with and add context to the previous statement.
It’s all too common for people to make the mistake that shouting can help a hearing-impaired person hear better. Do you want to be shouted out? You most likely have already experienced that shouting only makes it harder to hear. It can distort sound and change the shape of lips for those who also rely on some degree of lipreading. Instead of shouting suggest to your loved ones that they try speaking in a steady cadence. Not too fast or too slow. Ask them to enunciate as much as possible and take breaks at the end of ideas or sentences to allow them time to process all the information before moving on to the next subject.
Reduce the background noise
One of the greatest hurdles in communicating with hearing loss is listening in crowded or noisy spaces. The nature of most hearing loss makes it difficult to prioritize sounds over others. This makes busy restaurants and crowded parties a nightmare to hear in. When you can suggest quieter meeting places for conversation. Ask your loved ones to avoid playing to the radio when you are conversing and wait to run noisy appliances such as dishwashers till later.
This May, use BHSM as a call to action. For more strategies on how to help you hear with your loved ones and to find out more about treatment options don’t delay scheduling a hearing exam now.