So, you or someone you associate with has hearing aids. Congratulations! Now the question is, what should you expect when you talk to them? Should they be able to understand everything going on around them? Will I still have to repeat myself? Will life be normal again?
Actually, the hearing aids are only part of the treatment plan when someone has a hearing loss. The other part is how, when and where you attempt to communicate with a person. The hearing aid will make sounds louder and reduce some of the steady state background noise, but they do not cure the damage in the hearing organ. The damaged organ sends a different signal to the brain than the signal a normal hearing ear will send. The brain still needs to decode the sound to make sense of it.
The following is a list of healthy habits to use when communicating with a person who uses hearing aids – or even those who do not.
- Face the person when you talk to them. This is done routinely when you are out in public, but in the house we forget our manners and talk to someone with our back to them (sometimes with our face in the refrigerator!).
- Reduce the distance between you and the person to whom you are speaking. Again, in public you would never try to speak to someone from another office or down a hall, but in the home we seem to throw our manners out the window. The rule to remember? If you need a towel or more toilet paper, that is the only time it is okay to talk from another room!
- Call the name of the person before you start to speak. Hearing impaired people are one task oriented. As you call their name, they will engage the brain with the ears and be ready to process speech. If you do not do this, the brain will hear the extra sound but not be ready to process the speech for its meaning. By the time they connect everything together, you will be halfway through the sentence and will have to repeat it.
- If the room you are in is noisy, understand that clarity will not be as good as clarity in a quiet room. Despite the newer technology in a hearing aid, the hearing impaired person will have difficulty separating the desired speech from the noise in the room. All sound is vibration, even speech, and some of the same pitches we need to understand speech are in the background noise.
- Where a hearing impaired person sits at a table is very important. The best direction to sit is with the back of the head to the noise of the room. Sit across the table from the soft spoken people. Sitting at a table with six or more individuals is usually unsuccessful for conversation.
- Perhaps the words used are confusing to the hearing impaired person. If someone asks you to repeat yourself, speak slower, not louder. Be prepared to use different words to state the same thing if understanding is still a problem.
- Have important conversations earlier in the day. If an important conversation is planned, select the time of day that fatigue is not a factor and ask that only one person speak at a time. When people add side comments or interrupt each other, that information is usually not heard by the hearing impaired person.
- When speaking on the telephone, reduce room noise. Try to use a speaker phone. When you use a speaker phone both ears are engaged and thus both sides of the brain are being used. With two ears, understanding is at its best.
- Hearing aids do not cure, they aid. Work with the audiologist to better understand the hearing loss and the best way to communicate.
- Find the humor in the situation. Communicating effectively is work for all parties involved. Sometimes no matter what you do, the sentence you just said is not going in the right hole! Don’t take it personally. Step back and regroup. A graceful, patient, and good-humored attitude is imperative for stress-free and successful communication. FBN
Written by Dr. Karon Lynn
724 N Humphreys St Flagstaff, AZ 86001