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Those who acquire their hearing loss at some point after they’ve acquired language will find it necessary to adjust deeply ingrained habits of communication. While it’s true that those with normal hearing need to learn to accommodate hearing loss in others around them as well, there are ways that those of us with hearing loss can also improve our situations.
Identify Your Communication Style
There are three (3) main communication-style categories that those with hearing loss will fall into:
Those who are new to hearing loss often go through a passive phase. Passive communicators tend to withdraw from conversation and stay in the background of group meetings. They might be afraid they’ll misunderstand something, make a mistake, and look “stupid.” Passive communicators might pretend to hear when they can’t for fear of complicating the situation or inconveniencing someone. While passive communication might seem like the easiest way to deal with new hearing loss, it will soon leave us feeling isolated and depressed. While it may be fine to engage passively occasionally with a stranger that one might never see again, it won’t work in our significant relationships.
Also untenable, an aggressive communication style will involve a person throwing their weight around, taking charge of situations and overtalking out of fear that, if the other person gets a chance to talk, the aggressive communicator won’t be able to hear them. If the other person does get a word in, the aggressive communicator, not hearing what has been said, might accuse them of speaking too softly or mumbling, rather than acknowledge their own hearing loss.
Assertive communication should be our goal. Here, we acknowledge our own hearing loss and the complications it might introduce, while asking for help when we need it. People who enact this communication strategy report high levels of satisfaction with it. If we cannot honestly say that we are currently a good assertive communicator, we should work toward becoming one.
Basics of Assertive Communication with Hearing Loss
Follow these few tips and you’ll be on your way to moving confidently through the world with hearing loss:
- Let people know right away that you have hearing loss. Know that not everyone has had experience communicating with the hearing impaired, so let them know a couple of the strategies they can use that you’ve found work best for you. You might say something like, “With my hearing loss, I need to read lips a bit to help me understand. Would you mind making sure I can see your mouth when you speak?”
- Even if you might feel afraid or embarrassed to ask for what you need, go ahead and do it. It will soon become second nature, especially once you realize how willing others are to accommodate your needs. Most people will soon remember what works for you and do it automatically in the future.
- When entering a conversation, take note of anything that’s making it hard for you to follow along and address the issues early. Too much background noise from a fan or television? Turn those things off or ask to move the conversation away from them.
- If you aren’t sure whether you’ve heard someone correctly, restate what you think they’ve said and give them the opportunity to correct you.
- Face the person you’re speaking with. Some of us don’t realize at first that we are, in fact, reading lips to make up for our hearing loss.
- Remember that listening with hearing loss is especially exhausting. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself getting tired while your conversational partner seems to be fully energized. Ask to take a break if you need to.
- Try to retain a sense of humor about your hearing issues. Remember that everyone mishears things sometimes, and it can lead to some pretty funny misunderstandings!
Hearing loss is a strange beast. One thing that might not be obvious to us is that some phonemes will remain unclear no matter how loudly they are spoken. If we need someone to repeat something, it’s usually much more beneficial to ask them to rephrase rather than simply repeat what they’ve said. If it’s a single word you’re having trouble with, ask them to spell it out.
If you’re new to hearing loss and you’re not currently being treated for it, make an appointment with our team today. Your conversational ability will improve and the ripple effects will extend to areas of your life you might not even imagine at first.