Hearing loss has a profound affect on how we interact with our environment and those in it. But thanks to today’s technology and medical ingenuity, many of those suffering from hearing loss have been able to seek help through the use of hearing aids. However, it is important to remember what hearing aids are; an aid, not a cure.
Hearing loss results from damage of the auditory nerve that transmits information from the ear to the brain. Damage to auditory nerves can not only impair our ability to hear, but it can also interfere with how we understand the information the brain receives. In other words, just because a person can hear your voice does not mean they can understand your words.
Hearing aids are designed to amplify sound coming into the ear, but they do not correct the physical damage in the auditory system. This means that if sound coming into the ear passes through a damaged auditory center, the information may not travel easily from the ear to the brain. The information may become distorted along the way making it difficult for the brain to interpret. In other words, making things louder will not fix the problem if the brain can not decipher what information it is receiving.
This is why it is important to recognize that while hearing aids can improve one’s hearing, this improvement has limitations. Not everyone knows what realistic expectations are when it comes to communicating with someone wearing a hearing aid. Therefore, we at the Enhanced Hearing Centres have put together a guide to assist those interacting with a hearing impaired individual.
1. Be Patient
As previously mentioned, hearing aids will not magically fix a person’s hearing loss. And while you may feel frustrated at times with any difficulty in conversing, know that the hearing impaired person feels the exact same way.
2. Get Their Attention
Gently tap the person on the arm, or say their name. This prepares them for the beginning of a conversation.
3. Face Them and Keep Eye Contact
Look directly at a person when speaking to them. It is easier for a person to understand what is being said when facial cues and lip reading is made available. Dropping your head down, covering your face with your hands or looking away when speaking may cause confusion as to what is being said.
4. Speak Clearly and Distinctly
This does not mean speaking excessively slowly as doing so may come across as patronizing. As well, do not over emphasize lip and mouth movement as it can make lip reading difficult. Shouting can also become distorted by hearing aids, so keep to a slightly louder but normal speaking volume.
5. Be Close to the Person
Do not shout to a person from across a room as background noise may distort the message. Stay in the same room as the person you are speaking to. Leaving the room and talking from around a corner can interfere with the clarity of your words, along with facial and body language cues that help convey your message.
6. One Ear may Hear Better Then the Other
If this is the case, position yourself closest to the better hearing ear.
7. Minimize Background Noise
If a television, radio, or other volume controllable device is on, turn it down. If you can not control the noise in a room, consider moving to a quieter one.
8. Rephrase Your Self
If a particular word or phrase is not understood, try saying it again in another way.
9. Pay Attention To The Person You Are Speaking To
Have they indicated they have questions? Or do they express a puzzled look on their face which may mean a misinterpretation? Make sure they understand what you have said to them.
10. Do Not Interrupt
Whether you are in a one-on-one situation or a group conversation, do not interrupt when someone else is speaking. It is difficult enough for a fully hearing person to decipher two incoming messages at once. It is far more complex for more than one message to be untangled by a hearing impaired individual.
Communication involves at least two individuals; a speaker who sends the message, and a listener who receives it. It is important for each party to take responsibility for their end of the conversation. If the hearing impaired individual is doing their best to listen to your message, make sure you do your best to deliver it to them clearly.
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