How Body Language Helps Communication with the Hearing Impaired
Did you know that almost 50 million Americans experience hearing loss? There are many different causes of hearing loss, as well as various types. Some are caused by poor conduction in the inner ear, and some are caused by nerve damage. There’s a chance that you might already be affected by hearing impairment and not even know it, due to the very slow and gradual nature of most kinds of hearing loss. However, even if you’re not affected by hearing loss, there’s a good chance that someone you care about is.
If your significant other, parent, grandparent or anyone else you love experiences hearing loss, it can prove a real barrier to communication. Here are some ways in which you can better help and support them by improving communication through body language.
Pick up on the visual cues they give you
As well as thinking about your own body language, it’s important to watch the body language of people with hearing loss. For example, when you’re talking to them, they may subconsciously incline their head to one side. This is a common sign that their hearing is much stronger in one ear than the other. Make a note and try to position yourself on the right side of them to ensure that your voice is heard.
Use gestures to clarify your communication
People with hearing loss often struggle to hear consonant sounds or words and voices that are higher in register. This can result in misunderstanding and miscommunication. When this doesn’t fit into the flow of communication, the listener’s brain will double back and try to correct itself, but the split-second this takes can cause them to lose track of the conversation.
You can support someone with hearing loss by supplementing your speech with gestures. Some people do this naturally, but even if you’re not the type of person to “talk with your hands,” it might be worth using small gestures to add clarity and emphasis to your words.
Make sure you’re not giving any mixed signals with your body language
When people have hearing loss, they become much more attuned to non-verbal forms of communication when conversing with someone who hears well. And if you’re not cognizant of this, you might be sending mixed signals. Think about;
- Your face: Be wary of how facial expressions can be misinterpreted furrowing your brow in concentration as this can be misread as irritation or annoyance
- Your feet: If your feet are pointing away from someone this can indicate that you are no longer interested in the conversation
- Your hands: Be wary of fidgeting or resting your head on a hand. These can indicate boredom.
- Your head: Nod along and incline your head towards them to let them know that you can hear and understand them.
People who are hearing impaired often find conversation difficult, and the nuances of body language and gestures can help them to find your conversation with them easier and more rewarding.
Make eye contact when talking to them
It’s very common for those who love someone with hearing loss to feel ignored. They may not respond at all to what you say, or it might take them a few seconds to process it. As upsetting and frustrating as this can be, try to remain patient and indicate clearly when you’re talking to someone with hearing loss, even when there’s nobody else in the room.
Avoid talking to them from elsewhere in the home. Make direct eye contact and speak slowly, clearly and directly to them. Rather than shouting to get their attention, bridge the gap between you and make physical contact. A light touch on the arm is all it takes and can get the conversation off to a much more pleasant start than having to shout.
Encourage someone with hearing loss to see a hearing instrument specialist
As important as it is to be patient with someone who is hearing impaired and supplement your communication with body language, gestures and other non-verbal communication, there’s something you can do for them that’s even more helpful – encourage them to see a hearing instrument specialist (HIS). Whatever the cause and extent of their hearing loss, a HIS can recommend a hearing aid that can help them hear better and make conversation easier. They can even help calibrate it so that it’s specially attuned to their unique hearing needs.
If you are close to someone with hearing loss and want to know more about how a HIS can help them, get in touch with AA Hearing Aid Center Inc. today at 203-348-2271.