How to Become a Better Communicator Despite Hearing Loss

Communication is reliably reported as one of the most—if not the most—crucial factors to building and maintaining healthy relationships. As stated by the PBS program The Emotional Life:

“How couples behave when solving problems together or arguing can predict the character and success of their relationship. A raised eyebrow, a hand on the arm, or a greeting all may seem like small things, but research shows that the quality of everyday interactions can make or break a relationship.”

Similarly, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of approximately 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among recruiters. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most important when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.

From maintaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication affects almost every element of our lives. Attempting to improve our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to start if we wish to make some positive improvements.

HOW TO BECOME A HIGHLY EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATOR

Growing to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it will require some elementary skills and the disposition to practice.

Step one is to recognize that the goal of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of ideas where all parties can be heard and appreciated. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as significantly, requires robust listening skills.

As a matter of fact, listening skills may be the most significant part of communication. The explanation is very simple: if you fail to understand what is being said, you won’t have the capacity to formulate a relevant and significant reply. This lack of ability to understand is the underlying cause of many misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.

Developing listening skills, then, is the single most important thing you can do to become a better communicator. And while active listening is often difficult on its own, hearing loss makes things even harder.

HEARING LOSS AND THE OBSTACLES TO ACTIVE LISTENING

Active listening requires devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by completely understanding the message can you develop a relevant and substantive reply, and that’s why ineffective speakers are nearly always preoccupied listeners.

But what creates the distraction?

Here are four typical sources of distraction and how hearing loss tends to make things even worse:

Distraction # 1: Stress

If you’ve ever been highly stressed or anxious, you know how difficult it can be to focus your attention. You’re more likely to be focused on your own thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to lose out on critical non-verbal signs and to misread what others are saying.

Regarding stress, hearing loss by itself is a considerable source. You may become anxious about missing important information or coming up with awkward responses. And, the battle to hear speech in the existence of hearing loss is a source of anxiety and strain by itself.

Distraction # 2: Lack of focus

Active listening is challenging because our minds have the natural propensity to wander. You can’t simultaneously listen to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text message, and plan what you’re going to say next. Keeping inside of the present moment and concentrating on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle details of the speaker’s message.

Hearing loss produces a lack of focus because it takes you outside the present moment. If you’re working to understand what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The continual catching-up almost ensures that you’ll never totally understand the message.

Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding

Stress and lack of focus can both force you to misunderstand the message. This presents the chance of you becoming upset or irritated with a message that the other person never actually meant to send.

This at minimum wastes time and at worst produces bad feelings. Not to mention the aggravation of the individual who is consistently misunderstood.

Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence

If you lack confidence, you’ll find it difficult to assert yourself while socializing. You’ll likely also be preoccupied with what the other person thinks rather than on the content of what they’re saying.

Hearing loss makes things much worse, not surprisingly, because your misinterpretations could be perceived as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re constantly asking for clarification on simple points, it makes it difficult to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.

HOW HEARING AIDS CAN HELP

Coming to be a better communicator requires becoming a better listener, but how can you come to be a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have a few choices, but because hearing aids have come so far with respect to identifying and amplifying speech, they actually are the ideal solution.

Modern digital hearing aids have a number of tremendous features made especially for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models have background noise suppression, directional microphones, and innovative digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.

Without the need to strain to hear speech, you can focus all of your energy on comprehending the message. Then, as you become a better active-listener, your self-confidence, assertiveness, and speaking skills will all take care of themselves.

If you have hearing loss and you’re ready to begin building distraction-free listening skills, arrange your hearing test today.

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