Audiology

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Communication Tips For Friends And Family

See your hearing health professional. Learn about hearing aids and assistive listening devices (ALDs). Try these products. They work and they make an enormous difference.

Decrease the distance between you and the listener. This is the single most effective way to increase understanding. Moving a little closer can make a big difference.

Don't eat, drink, or chew gum while speaking.

During conversation, turn off the radio, television, and other distractions.

Wait until passing noises subside. While walking down the street, for example, don't even attempt to talk over the noise of the passing cement mixer. Wait until it's out of range.

Save important talk for quiet environments.

Scout out good places. Know which restaurants are quiet and which are noisy. Know which areas of a restaurant are better than others. Avoid the kitchen, cash register, and reception area. Look for restaurants with lots of soft fabrics and upholstery rather than a modern, hard-surface look.

Be sure the listener is ready to hear you. He'll need a moment to focus because understanding speech requires more concentration for him than for you. To see why this is so, think of listening to someone with a thick accent; it's much more difficult to understand his first few words if you are unprepared to listen.

For best communication, the speaker and listener should be 3 to 6 feet apart.

Face him so he can see your lips, your entire face, and hands and body gestures. These all provide valuable cues and can help fill in for sounds he's not getting. Try to avoid bushy mustache or other facial hair that obscures the lips. Avoid shadows.

Lighting should be above or in front of you, never coming from behind you. Don't stand in front of the window while talking to him. As discussed earlier, he needs to observe facial and body gestures. This is particularly important if the listener is further away, as in a classroom.

Face him and talk directly to him so the volume of your voice doesn't fluctuate. Turning away from someone while talking significantly decreases the volume. Talking into the cupboard while getting the cold cereal is even worse. Try not to talk while moving around so volume level and visual cues don't fluctuate.

Speak louder and enunciate clearly, but don't exaggerate sounds and don't shout. Exaggerating can distort sounds, and shouting can be very disruptive to the HOH person for two reasons: first, the environment of the HOH person, depending on the degree of hearing loss, is one where ambient sounds we take for granted are severely reduced or absent. A sudden loud sound can be startling. Second, there is a reduced listening-comfort range between what can be heard and what becomes uncomfortably loud.

Rephrase, don't repeat. Vary the words. Some words are more difficult to understand than others and/or may be more difficult to lipread.

Introduce topics clearly, as well as transitions. For example, "Dad (pause), I want to talk about your trip to Florida", rather than, "What time is your flight?" If you are discussing a complex topic, good organization and clear transitions will aid understanding. This is critically important. Why? It's related to the way we listen and absorb information.

None of us hear every single sound in a conversation but if we are familiar with the topic, we'll hear enough key sounds to fill in the gaps, even if the other person is talking very rapidly. If we're not familiar with the topic we will interrupt more because the context isn't strong enough to fill in the sounds/syllables we're not hearing. A HOH (hard of hearing) person, who is not able to hear as many key sounds as we are, needs a stronger context to help compensate.

Be sensitive to signs of confusion or uncertainty.

In group conversations, try to have only one person speak at a time. The person who is about to speak, if at all possible, should provide a subtle visual cue such as a hand gesture. The HOH (hard-of-hearing) person can't understand one voice over another and needs to be facing the speaker for maximum clarity. In more formal settings, such as book clubs, the leader should indicate who is to speak by pointing and saying his or her name.

Arrange people and furniture to create the best listening environment. In the living room, seat the HOH person away from the kitchen and other noisy areas. Be sure he is sitting with the noise behind him. In a restaurant, sitting next to the person rather than across from him may be better. Seat the person with his good side towards the others and facing them as much as possible so as to get the most visual cues.

In summary, do not:

  • talk rapidly
  • enunciate poorly and in a low tone of voice
  • speak with food in your mouth
  • turn away from the listener
  • speak with your head in the cupboard or from another room or from more than 6 feet away
  • change topics abruptly, without cues or transitions
  • use unusual or unfamiliar words
  • speak when there is significant background noise present
  • speak in poor lighting

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2201 Glenwood Avenue
Joliet, IL 60435

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Audiology 815-531-3802

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1890 Silver Cross Blvd
Pavilion A #435
New Lenox, IL 60451

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900 West Route 6
Suite 960
Morris IL 60450

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Audiology 815-531-3802

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