Many of us have hearing loss or work with students who have hearing loss. I thought it might be useful to share some common strategies. THE BASICS *Maintain Eye Contact I often say, "I didn't/can't see you" as opposed to "I didn't/can't hear you.” This helps people remember to maintain eye contact with me or remove obstacles (such as hands covering their mouth). *Speak Naturally Speak at a normal rate, though you can pause to give the person time to process what is being said. Try not to mumble. Shouting and over exaggerating your words leads to distortion. ENVIRONMENTAL *Preferential Seating Which side do I have people sitting on? Where is the waitress going to approach me? Do I have a clear view at meetings? I arrive early to some events and even ask if I can get in a bit earlier so I can grab optimal seating. If you like sitting in the back, don’t go with me because I never sit there. *Reduce Background Noise Is there a quieter place to sit? Is there a room in my house that is more acoustically pleasing? A place in the living room that has too much traffic passing by? Can you shut a door? A window? My really thoughtful friends often put the music on a much lower setting. I change my setting if I can, choose a better setting if I can, and if all else fails--there are other strategies to use. *Preview the Setting Sometimes it can be helpful to preview the setting ahead of time. Some changes can greatly improve the listening experience. Some changes might include furniture arrangements, preferential seating, changes to a more acoustic friendly room, gauging group size, meeting the presenter, or any number of things. It can also include asking for an advance copy of writing or coming early so to read materials given before the lecture or event starts. The more I read about the situation, the easier it is to understand what it is I’m seeing and hearing. *Limit Group Sizes and Distance Ideally I try to avoid situations where there are going to be a large number of people to listen to at once. A horseshoe or circular format is best in these situations. One problem with larger groups is distance. The listening dynamic range for people with hearing loss is greatly reduced and it limits the visual range as well. *Reduce Visual Distractions That table arrangement is gorgeous and I will lovingly tell you so, but I also have to politely ask if I can remove objects from a dining table or other locations that interfere with being able to maintain good eye contact. Don’t be distracted if I do this in a restaurant too. Pacing, tapping and other fidgets can be a bit distracting. It happens and I love you anyways! If it is too distracting, I sometimes have to remove myself, change my visual location or ask someone to please stop (if we are close friends). *Use Assistive Listening Devices There are a lot of useful devices on the market for your home. I have a few! I’m currently shopping for some updated solutions. When you attend public places, ask if they have assistive listening devices. Many movie theaters and concert areas have them. Sometimes churches and other locations have them as well. Definitely make sure your student in the classroom has access to a good FM or similar system. *Lighting Matters! You want bright lighting that doesn't cause shadows or glares. If the lighting is dim, even if I can see, I'm so distracted by it that it is harder to focus. I found a good article that talks about furniture arrangement and lighting. http://www.hearinglosshelp.com/articles/copingstrategies.htm *Is the Acoustics in Your House Friendly? When possible, pay attention to this before you rent/buy the place. There are things you can do to improve acoustics in your home such as adding draperies, rugs, etc. COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES *Focus on Main Ideas, Context and Predictability Focus on main ideas. If you can’t hear every word, relax. Conversations are largely redundant and predictable. Drive thrus have common scripts. Cell phone salesman is likely not going to use food-related vocabulary. Use context and topic content to predict what might be said. When teaching students, consider using a lot of repetitive phrases. If they hear part of a phrase, they will learn to associate the full meaning without hearing all of it. This is a good step towards learning conversation predictability. *Ask for Specifics in Writing Most conversations are predictable so the main idea is more easily understood, but specifics might cause an issue. Ask for it to be emailed, written, etc. *Listen for/Be Clear with Topic Shifts My biggest issue is when the topic shifts and I lose that predictability. Often I have to ask, "What's the topic?" That gets me right back on track with listening. As a teacher, we need to be aware of topic shifts and the better we support those shifts with other cues (visuals, body language, pauses, etc.) the easier it is to follow. *Ask to Rephrase If I'm stuck on something you said, I usually ask for one repeat only. After that I ask people to say it a different way. "That is hard." (I'm stuck on the last word and the first two didn't give me enough substance). "That (point) is difficult." Ah, I got it. You said that was hard. *Asking the Right Questions Asking closed ended questions that narrow the scope of possible responses can be a useful strategy. If I ask “which one” from a list of two choices, that greatly reduces listening errors. One interesting strategy I read once deals with teaching others to vary the syllables in their response. Instead of saying, "yes" and "no" ask people to say "absolutely" and "no" or some other variation. This is because hearing the syllables and prosody (rhythm of speech) is easier to detect than speech (actual words). *Good Turn-Taking is Valuable Pausing and turn-taking is critical in these situations even for small groups. Most of the time it is pretty obvious because my neck starts cranking in all directions to quickly catch what is being said. In meetings, however, I sometimes begin by letting people know I will need deliberate turn-taking with visual cues and pauses so I can figure out who is talking next. I once attended a conference where the people routinely got heated and turn-taking went out the window. Towards the end of the week, I made red folders with a humorous cartoon on it. I asked people to hold up their folders when it was their turn. I had people thank me because it is really good courtesy for everyone involved. *Paraphrasing Clarifies When you paraphrase what someone has said to you, it is can really clear up any potential misunderstanding you might have not realized occurred! It gives people an opportunity to clear things up. SPEAK UP *Help People Help You “I didn’t understand what you said” is often not specific enough. Give the speaker necessary information to correct the problem.