Trouble Understanding Speech? Active Listening Skills Can Help
For those with hearing loss the struggle to understand speech, especially in background sound is a huge obstacle to communication. People tend to describe what they hear as gibberish. It turns out that the situation can be improved upon by getting hearing help and by becoming better, active listeners.
Listening: the secret sauce for good communication
Hearing is a “passive” process that provides access to sound information. Listening focuses attention on the sound and turns people into “active” participants in a conversation. They “tune into” the message. Being a good listener is important for effective communication, regardless of hearing status.
While it is easy to remind someone without hearing loss to listen and pay attention, this can be a difficult suggestion for somebody with hearing challenges. Part of the nature of hearing loss is that people become all too easily discouraged, frustrated and fatigued when trying to follow conversations. Rather than tuning in, they tune out. They become passive rather than active listeners or participants, which can lead to depression, social anxiety and isolation.
Get hearing help
In case of hearing loss, the first step is to get professional hearing help. So, do talk to an audiologist about these issues. He/she can help with hearing technology support, such as hearing aids and assistive listening devices.
Hearing aids improve and shape sound environments. As a result, clearer sound messages reach he brain. However, hearing aids do not refashion our listening behavior. That effort is left up to the individual.
A hearing specialist can also suggest practical communication tips and “listening” exercises. In that context, discuss software programs and apps for at-home learning and practice. These tools teach people in different and even in entertaining ways how to make the most of the sound information that they hear.
Merging the results of hearing technologies with targeted listening techniques takes time and practice. Yet, the reward is improved participation, comprehension and self-confidence.
Active listening skills can be learned. They help those with hearing loss concentrate and focus even in loud places. Such skills include:
· Zero in on the speaker of interest. Concentrate on that voice. Ignore background noise. This is a way of training the brain to hone in on a specific sound source.
· During these COVID times, consider carrying clear-window masks to be worn by conversation partners. Seeing the lips for speech-reading remains a necessary requirement for communication.
· Get into optimal position to face the speaker.
· Reduce noise, if possible. Find the quietest corner to have a conversation.
· Rather than having people repeat themselves, ask for them to rephrase what they said.
· Repeat back what was heard/understood. This shows interest in what was said and the desire to get the correct message.
· Practice with coaching/training software recommended by the hearing specialist.
Combining all of the above tactics will help compensate for the communication issues due to hearing damage and hearing loss.Although not perfect, it offers ways for turning gibberish into clearer, more coherent messages. After all, we all want to hear and understand as much as possible of what is said.
But then, we might give a thought to a quote by Peter Drucker, author and business management expert who felt that “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” All the more reason to actively Listen!
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