If you have a loved one who has difficulty hearing, you may find that you have to repeat yourself, speak louder, or simplify what you’re saying while communicating. You may become frustrated because he/she misunderstands what you’ve said or misses the message completely. When this happens it’s called a communication breakdown. What’s important to keep in mind is that your loved one may be embarrassed when a communication breakdown occurs and he/she can become frustrated or even discouraged over time.
Although communication breakdowns are inevitable even with normal hearing individuals, with the proper speaking technique and communication strategies, you can decrease the number of breakdowns. The first step to avoiding breakdowns is to think about how you currently communicate with your partner and target your bad habits.
What not to do when speaking to an individual with hearing loss:
- Shouting actually distorts speech and can make it more difficult to understand. It is also important never to shout directly into someone’s ear as it can be potentially painful and damaging to their hearing.
Speak too slowly
- When you significantly reduce your speaking rate, you disrupt the natural cadence and intonation of language that people with hearing loss use as clues to help them piece the message together. In addition, when you talk too slowly the way your mouth looks changes for each speech sound, so people who depend on lip-reading actually struggle more to understand you.
Speak too quickly
- By speaking with few pauses, the listener has more difficulty distinguishing individual words and the clarity of speech is diminished. Often individuals with hearing loss can tell that something is being said, but it sounds mumbled. When the speaker talks too quickly, the listener does not have the clarity he/she needs understand the message.
How to improve your speaking habits:
The best way to communicate with someone with hearing loss is to use clear speech. Clear speech is a speaking technique that stresses the use of pauses between words, crisp enunciation of speech sounds, and a slightly louder speaking volume. It is important that your speech still sounds natural when using this technique and not forced. It’s also crucial to face your partner and get their attention first before starting to talk. By consciously using these techniques the listener has a better chance of decoding the message and avoiding communication breakdowns.
Wrong: I wento the beach to hava picnicanswim.
Right: I went to the beach to have a picnic and swim.
If you have any questions about clear speech, communication strategies, or hearing loss, please feel free to call (616-994- 2770).