Focus on Listening for Better Hearing & Speech Month

Each May, Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) provides an opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and the role of audiologists and speech-language pathologists in diagnosing and treating hearing and speech-language disorders. The recognition is sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

For 2020, the theme is “Communication at Work.” At Associated Audiologists, we see the impact that good hearing and listening has on communication and quality of life.

Better listening skills could help everyone, whether you have a hearing loss, or know someone who does. Here are some tips from ASHA to help in your daily communications with family and friends.

  • Make communication easier from the beginning. Tell others you have a hearing loss and ask the speaker to get your attention before beginning to speak and to alert you of a change in topic.
  • Find a quiet, well-lit room for communication and stand or sit 3 to 6 feet from the speaker.
  • Fix communication breakdowns with repair strategies. When you realize that communication difficulties have already occurred, tell the speaker about the communication issue. Simply saying “huh?” or “pardon?” is not going to work well. Instead, offer a suggestion to rephrase or simplify what has been said.
  • Ask that the speaker repeat the part of the sentence that you did not get. It is best not to fake it and pretend that you understand when you do not! Doing this can increase the misunderstandings and result in everyone’s embarrassment.
  • Check what you heard by repeating the message back to the speaker. And if the conversation is full of important details, like medical appointments, ask the speaker to write down key information such as addresses, phone numbers, and appointment times.

Here are some more specific scenarios and suggestions for how to deal with them.

Problem: The speaker is difficult to understand.

Solution: Ask the speaker to speak slowly and not to shout at you. Ask the speaker to look directly at you and not to cover his or her face or look away. Seeing the speaker’s lips and expressions will help your understanding. Note: Many people think that shouting at someone with a hearing loss will help the person understand better, but in fact it doesn’t. It can make understanding more difficult and unpleasant.

Problem: Background noise is loud.

Solution:  Move to a quieter location. For example, pick a quiet restaurant and visit it when it will be less noisy. Some restaurant reviews provide information on noise levels. Make use of these when choosing a restaurant. In addition, many of the newest hearing aids include programs to help improve hearing in noisy backgrounds, plus directional microphones. Assistive technologies, such as FM systems or remote microphones, also may be helpful in these situations.

Problem: Room lighting is dim.

Solution:  Try to improve the lighting in the room, or find a room with good lighting. Sit with a window at your back facing the speaker. This makes it easier to see the speaker’s face. Using lipreading and seeing facial expressions can increase understanding of speech up to 20%, even for a person with no formal lipreading training.

Problem: Room acoustics are poor.

Solution:  In your home, select floor coverings (such as carpets), window coverings (such as cloth draperies), and furniture (such as upholstered chairs and sofas) that absorb sounds. When dining out, select restaurants with sound-absorbing carpets, curtains, linen tablecloths, and booths. Avoid restaurants that have hardwood floors and bare walls.

Problem: The topic of conversation is unexpected or unfamiliar.

Solution:  Ask the speaker or another listener to summarize the topic of conversation for you and to alert you when the topic changes.  Ask a yes/no question.  If possible, prepare for the conversation/meeting ahead of time by anticipating potential content and vocabulary that will be used.

Problem: You are dealing with fatigue, stress, and distractions, and it is difficult to pay attention.

Solution:  Set sensible goals for yourself.  Ask to have short breaks in meetings to prevent fatigue.

All of the doctoral-level audiologists with Associated Audiologists hold certificates of clinical competence in audiology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and have specific training to help you improve your communication strategies when wearing hearing aids.

If you have a specific communication challenge, schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist.