Common Sense and Courtesy in Communication by Paul Rook
Some years ago a young couple came to the office each complaining that the other couldn’t hear. Hearing tests revealed that both had normal hearing. If both had normal hearing, then why were there complaints of poor hearing? Many times poor hearing, or poor communication, may actually be the result of a poor listening environment. Fortunately, there are at least four things that you can do to improve communication.
Four Ways To Improve Communication
Be in the same room with the person with whom you are speaking. The acoustics of speech change with distance and space, usually for the worse. Informal measurements have shown that the level of speech can drop by 20 decibels just by going through an open door and speaking on the other side of a wall. For a person with mild hearing loss this scenario could translate into an impossible situation for effective communication.
Face the person with whom you are speaking. This allows for speech reading. More than just a gift possessed by a few special people, speech reading allows the listener to pick up visual cues that help distinguish special meanings of words or one word from another. People with hearing loss increasingly use speech reading as their loss becomes worse. Another advantage in facing the speaker is acoustical. Informal measurements have shown as much as 7 decibel drop in speech level when the speaker turns away from the listener.
Reduce or eliminate background noise. We’re not talking about freight trains or loud mufflers. So called everyday sounds, for example, the television, car radio, dish washer, disposal, or running water can greatly impair effective communication, especially for those with a high frequency loss. When necessary, another solution is to go to a quiet room.
Get the listener’s attention. Frequently overlooked, attention is of paramount importance. A normal hearing person who is focused on the task at hand may not hear the speaker. The problem is compounded when the listener has a hearing loss, even if wearing a hearing aid.
These are four suggestions for improving communication for people with normal and abnormal hearing. Perhaps you can think of others in your daily life.
Paul D. Rook, M.S.
Blount Hearing and Speech Services