The goal of treating hearing loss is to make things that you do on a daily basis easier and improve your ability to communicate.
While technology may be the start or a key part of your journey, there are also non-technical aspects to dealing with hearing loss that can make a huge difference in your quality of life.
This post will be focused on the communication strategies that can go a long way in helping you reclaim your quality of life and ability to communicate with less effort.
Build a Support Network
When you have hearing loss, you have the choice to either identify with hearing loss or try to hide it. Unfortunately, though hearing loss is invisible, it is very likely that people will figure out what is going on one way or another.
That’s why it might be best to take charge and address the issue directly.
This means getting family members and friends involved. Help them understand how best they can help you and how the technology you use to hear better works. The purpose of this isn’t to make them an expert, it’s just to help them understand what is going on and why you need their support.
Some other ways you might ask for their support will be to have anyone speaking to you ensure they have your attention or otherwise make it clear that they’re looking to speak to you before starting a conversation. That way, you won’t be joining mid conversation and have the other person start all over because you didn’t realize.
People without hearing loss may not know what to do with the information that you have hearing aids. You should be prescriptive when telling them what you need in order to hear better. “Most people will be happy to oblige if they understand what they need to do,” notes the Australian DPH, “Explain you don’t need them to shout at you, but to face you when they are talking and speak normally. You might need to remind people of this at times.”
It is a lot easier to repair communication breakdowns if you're already comfortable telling people what is challenging for you and how they can help.
Adjust Your Environment Where You Can
Hearing aids have come a long way. With advanced technologies like neural language processing and artificial intelligence, they are better than ever at translating and cutting out background noise. Yet they’re still a ways to go.
Even the best devices can’t compete with overwhelming background noise. If you find yourself in an environment and find that reducing background noise, reducing distance, lighting, acoustics of the room, if you can't turn your devices up any more.
“Try not to talk to [in an environment where] there are competing noises” writes the American Academy of Audiology, and if possible, move to a different area where there is less noise. That might mean when you’re out to dinner, asking for a quiet booth off in the corner rather than sitting at the bar.
Understand Communication Strategies to Help
It’s not always possible to be surrounded by your support network or control your environment. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead for large social occasions. Before entering such a situation, it can help to think about who will be there and what might be said.
Once you have anticipated possible vocabulary, dialogue, and names for a particular situation, practice speech‐reading those words with your spouse or conversation partner.
Other strategies you can use include:
- Asking the speaker for the topic or key word they’re speaking about.
- Asking the speaker to spell out a word or use gestures
- Asking the speaker to write it down or text it if possible
- Using visual cues like lip reading
- Asking for clarification or for the speaker to repeat the part of their phrase that you did not hear
The most important thing you can do in a situation is to remain calm. While you might miss certain words and have trouble catching up, getting tense will exacerbate this effect. “This is an expected part of having hearing loss, even if you are wearing a hearing device.” writes the Australian DPH, “Remember that if you are tired, or unwell, you will likely find it more difficult to concentrate on following a conversation and you might not hear as well.”
Vibe Hearing’s audiologist Annie Duchen, Au.D, CCC-A, observed that "technology is just one part of the whole. Unfortunately, It’s not going to fix everything. It takes hearing aids plus communication strategies plus the understanding of the people around you. All of those things plus consistent use result in long-term success.”