Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Huh? What? Are You Talking to Me?

As the mother of 4 active children (ages 10, 12, 12 and 14), things in my house are never perfect and communication in my home is rarely optimal.  No matter how I try, we seem to be breaking all the rules for clear and effective communication.  

For example...

We talk to each other through closed doors, from one room to the next, with faces buried in pillows and with backs turned. We try to have conversations while taking showers, when the dishwasher is on and even while mowing the grass. Who does that? 

Just because you're watching tv, talking on the phone or intently staring directly at the screen of a computer, doesn't mean that you are unavailable for conversation. Nope, not at my house- we just keep on talking to each other.

Even if your body language is shouting, "Don't talk to me!", "I'm busy!" or "Leave me alone!"  my family just can't take no for an answer. In fact, we have conversations with people when they are having conversations with other people. It's terrible!

We talk to each other from upstairs to downstairs, from downstairs to upstairs and while going up and down the stairs. Oh brother!

We would never take the time to lower the noise of the TVs, radios or video games in order to have a conversation- we just talk louder. 

And with 3 of those 4 children now in braces, clear speech production is a thing of the past. With mouths full of brackets, rubber bands and the dreaded transpalatal appliance, it seems to me that everyone is mumbling. 

Huh? What? Are you talking to me?

Add to the mix a spouse who has a mild hearing loss in his left ear and it's a wonder we are able to exchange information with one another. In fact...

Communication breakdown occurs every single day! 

I didn't hear you say that. 
I didn't know what you were talking about. 
I didn't know you were talking to me.
I didn't understand a single word you just said.

What's a girl to do?

Well, I might not be able to keep it together at home, but at work, I've got answers!  I can help you solve even your toughest communication problems related to hearing loss. Here is a list of tips I regularly share with my patients and their family members so that they can communicate successfully.

Being that May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, I thought it would be the perfect time to share...

18 Tips for Maximizing Comprehension
During Conversational Exchange

1.  Shhhhh! Quiet: reduce or eliminate unnecessary noises- put the TV on mute, turn down the radio, ask the host/ hostess at a restaurant for a table in a quiet location

2.  Keep your hands away from you face: nearly all listeners are able to make some use of lip reading, besides, a hand in front of your mouth will muffle the sound of your voice- just don't do it

3. Make things clear: rapid rushes of speech are sure to lead to misunderstanding, or worse, communication breakdown; focus on clear, precise pronunciation

4.  Pay attention: prepare the listener for interaction by saying their name or touching their hand, arm or shoulder; establish good eye contact to make sure everyone is ready

5.  Get up close and personal:  it is best if communication partners are no more than 3-6 feet away from each other; move the furniture if necessary; no matter what, you should always be in the same room

6. Get on their good side:  if a "better ear" is known to exist, position yourself on that side whenever possible

7.  Keep an eye on things: maintain eye contact- this is a great conversational technique under any circumstance, but facing the person with hearing loss allows them to get important visual cues, like facial expressions, that can add vital information to the exchange

8.  Slow down: a slow, deliberate rate of speech with intermittent pauses increases understanding and allows extra processing time, it's a win-win solution

9.  Go deep:  lower the pitch of your voice a bit; persons with hearing loss typically have the greatest difficulty distinguishing high frequency sounds, making a woman's voice harder to comprehend; so ladies, do your part and drop it down a notch 

10. Rephrase rather than repeat: if a listener didn't understand the first or second time, it is likely they won't get the third time either; when repeating, it may be necessary to find a different way of saying what's on your mind

11. Flick the switch: a light, bright environment can actually increase comprehension as it allows listeners to clearly see your face, so check to make sure that there is good overhead lighting before sitting down to have a talk

12. Preferential seating: when going to a restaurant, ask for a table away from the kitchen, server stations or large parties; at a meeting, sit closest to the main speaker; in school or at church, sit on the front row

13.  Get acquainted: introduce the listener to the general topic of the conversation in advance to enhance comprehension; avoid sudden changes of topic

14.  Repeat it back:  when giving specific information to someone who is hearing impaired, have them repeat specifics back to you to make sure they understood

15. Put it in writing:  whenever possible, provide pertinent information, such  as directions, numbers, times, schedules or assignments, in writing

16. Pay attention:  a puzzled look on the face of your listener usually indicates misunderstanding; tactfully ask the hearing impaired person if they understood to make sure you get the message across

17. Take turns:  avoid interrupting other speakers so that messages can be shared in entirety and without confusion

18. Everything is worse when you are sick and tired:  recognize that everyone, especially a hearing impaired person, has a harder time hearing and understanding when ill, or in the the later part of the day

Whether you are using these strategies during a therapy session with a 96 year old patient or when talking to your grandpa, I think you will find this list to be comprehensive and very helpful. 

If you suspect you have a hearing loss, use these techniques to reduce your difficulties during interactions with others, and be sure to see an audiologist for a complete audiological assessment. 

As for me and my gang- we are a work in progress.  I'll keep you posted.

Have a great week...thanks for reading!

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
Winston Churchill