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Conversation with Hearing Loss

Understanding a conversation with hearing loss is no easy task. It takes solid focus involving several strategies and self advocacy. Conversation is NOT casual for those with hearing loss. It is a process with our distorted hearing (read Sensorineural Hearing Loss Visuals HERE). This means we hear your voice but we can’t understand all of the words (see Hearing VS Understanding HERE). Even if we wear hearing devices, many people have unrealistic expectations (read more on that HERE) of what our devices can and can’t do. We all use lipreading to some degree but again, there are times when lipreading doesn’t work either (see this POST). 

With hearing loss, we won’t understand the message if we aren’t focused on you. If you don’t have our attention before speaking, it’s a guaranteed repeat. We have to clear our mind to be ready to receive your message. When we are focused on you, we then use the visual aspects of communication to fill in gaps. On top of that, we are using logic and what we know of the topic to fill in other holes.  

Conversation runs smoother when the speaker is focused and not multitasking as well.

The following story shows you what processing conversation looks like with hearing loss. It’s how we sort through what we can and can’t hear, while trying to find the topic.

The Hearing Loss Process:

The hearing wife is at the kitchen sink, dishes clanking while rinsing and setting them in the drainer. She says something, back turned to the Hard of Hearing (HoH) husband who is sitting at the table looking at his phone. The HoH husband hears the voice but doesn’t understand a single word. The noisy dishes override speech. He has no choice but to ask for a full repeat at that point. 

Green background that fades to blue. Black font: Moving targets are hard for people with hearing loss.
Image of an icon running.
Black font: WE can't use the visual components of communication.

His wife turns around to face him, sort of, but continues moving around the kitchen as she talks. This is a moving target which cuts down on lipreading abilities and visual cues. The husband asks her to stop, face him and say it again.

Maybe the noise and moving target rattled him a little. Even with her facing him, he cannot grasp the topic of the conversation which is key to lipreading strategies. This is a new conversation. Without knowing the topic, he has to pull random ideas of what he knows about her likes/dislikes and her typical conversation topics. He sees a word, he thinks, and takes a stab at the topic.

“Are you talking about your plants?” 

Plants is the word he thought he saw. She recently put her garden in so plants have been a big topic lately. He asked a specific question to gain clarity on the topic. If he can just figure out what the topic is, everything else tends to fall in place. 

“No, I’m talking about hiking to Lake Blanche.” 
Green background that fades to blue.
Black font: With hearing loss, we play  a lot with; it looks like, it sounds like, here's what I know. 
There's a hand drawn image of an eye, an ear with a hearing aid in it then a magnifying glass with a questions mark in it.

Now he has focus on the topic with the extra information she provided. It’s no longer random and it’s easier to follow the conversation. She slowed down with a simple, direct statement. Now he can fill the gaps easier with what he knows of the hike and the lake.  

Look Like, Sounds Like

‘Blanche’ and ‘plants’ look a lot alike on the lips. That is why hearing aids alone don’t always help, especially in background noise. Lipreading isn’t exact either. Understanding conversation with a hearing loss is a combination of strategies.

Learning better communication practices on both sides is a must to smooth out those conversations. Reduce background noise and movement, then follow the 3 Golden Rules

Look for our online, LIVE, lipreading classes which start again in September. We offer a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ registration. Bring your partner because when you learn together, you grow the know for better communication for you both. We have two of the classes in video format if you want to start now. 

Get to know us through our short videos on YouTube HERE. We talk about about communication strategies for those with hearing loss.

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