As an audiologist my job is to help people hear better, that also includes counseling a patients’ loved ones to do their part. Hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss, they are only AIDS.
Hearing sounds is not the same as understanding speech. The healthy auditory system with the brain understands speech. But for patients with hearing loss the auditory system is not healthy and the brain doesn’t always get the signals it needs to understand speech or discriminate speech from noise. Hearing aids amplify well, but can only compensate for ‘discrimination loss’ to a limited extent, the other part is up to the brain. When speaking with a hearing impairment there are things you can do to help the brain fill in the missing pieces. You might be surprised that yelling isn’t one of them.
To improve conversation with a hearing impaired person follow these tips:
- Get their attention. Make sure the listener is paying attention to you. Say their name or touch their arm so they are looking at you.
- Eye contact. Make eye contact with the listener and make sure they can see your face. Body language and gestures help the brain understand.
- Talk at a regular volume. Don’t raise your voice, volume doesn’t always help, in fact sometimes it distorts speech.
- Slow down. By slowing down your speech you give the brain time to catch up and fill in the missing pieces. If you insert pauses in your speech this will help.
- Try to move away from background noise. Turn the radio or TV down before you speak. Ask for a booth at restaurants or a table away from the kitchen and center of room.
- Repeat when asked. No questions asked, just repeat it. You can try to rephrase it as well.