No matter how old you are, I will bet that on at least one occasion, you’ve had a conversation with a friend, family member, business associate, or even a stranger who was hard of hearing. The natural tendency in this situation is to yell or shout. This makes common sense, but it is rarely effective.
Conversation Tips: Where Do You Begin?
People who are hard of hearing (not deaf) often hear better in specific registers, so the first thing you want to do is determine the best “pitch” of your voice to use in any conversation. Please note that this is not medical advice, but rather some strategies that have successfully worked for me over the years.
- Always sit or kneel at eye level to the person you are speaking to. If one ear is better than the other, direct your conversation to that ear.
- Be sure you are in a quiet room with no TV, music, fan, AC, or other internal or external sounds.
- Say “hi” or use some other phrase in three different voice registers and watch the person’s face to see which gets the best reaction. Now try a short sentence such as “How are you today?” to confirm the best pitch. Also, ask the person to repeat the sentence so you can verify their understanding.
How Can You Be Heard and Understood?
When a person wears a hearing aid, the inside of their head is similar to an “echo” chamber. If you speak quickly, at an above-normal volume, there is no time for the sound to reverberate or “land.” It will be heard as a loud, muffled noise. Your listener will not be able to distinguish any of the individual words. Below are some suggestions on how to overcome this.
- Face the person at eye level.
- Using the desired pitch, say each word of a simple question SLOWLY. This means that you will leave about two seconds of space between each word. This allows each word to register inside the head and gives the best chance to be understood. It would go like this: “How” space, space “Are” space, space, “You” space, space.
- Confirm that the person is hearing you and ask them to repeat what you said.
- If they do not hear part of the sentence, try not to repeat the same words. Use other, simple words. If you can use mostly one-syllable words, that’s even better.
- Continue to practice. It will take self-discipline to stay the course and speak slowly in the manner suggested.
By using this approach, you will potentially eliminate a lot of frustration – most importantly – for the person who is hearing challenged. I do hope you “spread the word on how to be heard!”
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