Although experts say that ninety five percent of communication is non verbal, the verbal aspect is a critical part of understanding the conversation, especially for those who are hearing impaired.

Developing communication strategies can help improve the situation – as much for the individual with hearing loss as well as for their friends and family members.

There are several strategies to help communicate with a hearing-impaired person.Control the environment whenever possible. Non verbal cues, such as facial expressions, hand gestures and other body language can give you a lot of information about the speaker and what they’re saying. For this reason, be sure to sit close – whether you’re attending a lecture or simply having a conversation with a good friend. Try to choose the quietest part of the venue – away from a noisy restaurant kitchen, loud television or construction work that’s taking place outside your window. Shed a little light on the subject, too. It’s easier to “read” facial expressions when faces are well lit.

Ask for what you need. Not all communicators are created equal. And if you have trouble hearing, it’s important that you politely ask those who talk too fast, mumble or look down when they speak to help you understand what they are saying. The more specific your request, the better. Instead of saying “I didn’t hear what you said”, say “It’s easier for me to understand you when I can see your face. Would you please raise your head a little?” or “I heard you say you were changing jobs, but I didn’t hear which company you will be working for.” This makes those who are talking more aware of how they are being understood and prevents them from repeating the entire conversation.

Use available technology and resources. Studies indicate 90 percent of those who use hearing aids are happy with their improved quality of life and are less likely to be depressed or anxious about their hearing loss. Hearing aids can be expensive and many insurance plans do not cover the cost of a hearing evaluation or the purchase of this technology, but there are alternatives. If you’re still employed, check with your company to see if they participate in any vocational rehabilitation programs. Qualified individuals can receive free or reduced-cost hearing aids and may be eligible to participate in rehabilitative services directly related to improving job performance.

Stay informed. Technology and government regulations are changing all the time, so it’s wise to stay informed. New wireless technology makes hearing aids virtually invisible and able to work with other communication devices in your home, such as televisions, computers and MP3 players. Take advantage of free hearing screenings on the job or in the community, especially during Better Hearing and Speech Month in May of each year. Learn how to protect your hearing so you can prevent further hearing loss whenever possible.

Of course, employing strategic communication skills begins by understanding what type of hearing loss you have and what you need in order to effectively communicate with your friends, family and co-workers. Once you find a good audiologist and hearing center who will work with you, better hearing is just around the corner.

For more communication strategies, visit the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders and the American Speech-Language Association websites. 

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