It can be difficult to meet new people, and that’s not to mention meeting people when you have hearing loss. Different voices, different situations, all of this can lead to difficulties in communication.
It can be easy to get frustrated if you’re having troubles hearing, but there are some simple ways to get beyond this and keep developing your listening skills.
So here are 14 things to do—and 4 things not to do.
What to Do: 14 Strategies
But what can they do, and what should you do? Here are some different strategies that you can use to make conversations flow smoothly when meeting people.
- Make sure that you’re in a well-lit area, especially if there’s more background noise than usual. This way you can make sure to easily use your speech reading skills if you need to.
- If you’re in a small group of people having a conversation, ask whoever’s speaking to speak clearly and naturally—but not to shout or over-exaggerate their words. Many people think that speaking louder or shouting helps you to hear the words better, but this is not necessary. A polite reminder to use a natural conversational speaking voice might be all it takes for them to adjust their voice and really be understandable.
- If you don’t understand what someone is saying, just ask them to repeat it.
- If you don’t understand, repeatedly, ask them to say the same information, just rephrased or said in a slightly different way using different words.
- If you’re not sure what they’re saying, ask some questions to clarify what you might have misunderstood.
- If someone is giving you important information, and you are still having difficulty understanding it through listening, ask them to write down the crucial parts.
- Alternatively, when they’ve said their bit you can summarize what you heard and repeat this summary back to them. This way they’ll be able to fill in any gaps.
- If you’re joining a group that’s already in the middle of a conversation, ask if someone could briefly sum up what’s already been said. This way you can focus on the conversation, instead of trying to deduce what they were talking about.
- Another thing you could do is asking someone in the group to give you a few key words about the conversation’s topic. This way you’ll have already heard specific words, so it’ll be easier to pick up on them in the conversation.
- As a starting point, try to identify the ideas that are being talked about, instead of focusing on every single word. This way you can understand the general flow of the conversation, without getting bogged down in the particulars and risking potential frustration at not understanding everything or not being able to participate. Once your listening skills develop further, you can try to focus more on the sentences being used during the conversation.
- If you’re further away from a person who’s talking to you, whether it’s across a table or across a room, ask if it’s possible for them to move closer to you, or move closer to them.
- If someone calls to you from another room, remember to move closer to them, or ask them to come to you before beginning the conversation.
- If you recognize that you’re in an extra noisy situation—like a room where there are lots of conversations going on, a TV is on in the background, or someone is playing music—see if you can turn off these devices or move to a quieter spot in the room, or a different room altogether.
- If it’s possible, try to avoid rooms with poor acoustics. This is especially true at work, when you’re setting up meetings. If you want to, ask your co-workers or partners if a microphone or other assistive listening device can be made available.
What Not to Do
- Not talking about your hearing loss can lead people to assume that you’re hearing absolutely everything they say.
- If people don’t know that you still have a hearing loss, even when you’re using your cochlear implant, this can cause them to think that your cochlear implant allows you to hear just like they do.
- Nodding along during conversation, or pretending that you’re following along, might make it easier to get through social situations and meeting people; at the same time, it keeps you from developing the listening skills or understanding the information in the message that’s being said to you. Nodding or pretending that you understand what’s being said can actually stop you from succeeding in social situations.
- Assuming that you’re a burden to the conversation. Most people are willing to help you out, and will want to engage in conversation with you, but this will be easier for everyone if you let them know what they can do.
For more information about succeeding in conversations, check out our whole Smart Tips for Cochlear Implant Users brochure—it’s free to download!
Like this post about meeting people? Subscribe to the MED-EL Blog for even more tips that can help you improve your listening skills, communication skills, and more!
This post was written with help from Natalie Comas, a rehabilitation specialist at MED-EL.