Communication Strategies for the Hearing Aid Wearer, Part 6: Controlling the Environment to Maximize Understanding

By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D. –

Are you passive, aggressive or assertive when it comes to managing your hearing loss?

If you try to avoid situations in which you have difficulty hearing, you are passive (i.e. staying home instead of going to church). If not being able to hear makes you so angry and frustrated that you take it out on others, you are aggressive (i.e. accusing others of mumbling often enough that it causes family friction). If, on the other hand, you plan ahead when you know you are going to be in a difficult listening environment, ask others for help and clearly state your communication and hearing needs, you are assertive (i.e. calling ahead to reserve the “quiet” table at your favorite restaurant). Which of these coping methods do you want to implement as one of your most effective communication strategies?

The answer is, of course, to be assertive, which is not the same thing as being rude. Instead, think of assertiveness as your ability to take responsibility for effective communication without making an apology for your hearing loss.

Communication Strategies for the LISTENER with Hearing Loss:

Step #6: Become more assertive in communicating your listening needs.
According to Dr. Mark Ross, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Audiology at the University of Connecticut, there are three ways you can become more assertive:

1. Modify the way your communication partner (the speaker) converses with you. You can accomplish this by being honest, straightforward and appreciative of the help your communication partner gives in return. For example, explain to the speaker that you have hearing loss and that you need to speechread and hear clearly. Politely request that the speaker remove gum or candy from his or her mouth or that they remove their hand from in front of their face. If the speaker is talking too fast, request that he slows down. If they are talking too softly, request they speak up. Honesty is the best policy in these situations and you will be surprised how willing people are to do what they can to help you hear more effectively.

2. Control your environment. Learn to recognize the things in your environment that can cause difficulty in your ability to hear and communicate. In last month’s article I listed some ways to improve the quality of your listening environment. Here are a few additional ways you can take control of your surroundings.

• If music playing at a restaurant is interfering with your conversation, request that the sound be turned down. It also helps to request a quiet table away from the crowd and to ask for written version of any specials.

Communication Strategies for the Listener with Hearing Loss

Step #1:
Recognize and understand the signs and symptoms of hearing loss.

Step #2:
Understand treatment options.

Step #3:
Have realistic expectations while implementing strategies for successful adaptation

Step #4:
Make an unwavering commitment to wearing hearing aids or using assistive listening devices.

Step #5:
Develop listening and speech reading skills.

Step #6:
Be assertive. Take responsibility for speech comprehension by taking steps for controlling the listening environment and giving honest and direct feedback to the speaker.

Communication Strategies the Speaker

Step #1:
Stop enabling the hearing impaired listener.

Step #2:
Support and encourage all efforts to get treatment.

Step #3:
Develop strategies for clear speech. (voice intensity, projection, rate and clarity)

Step #4:
Learn to understand and use body language.

Step #5:
Remove physical barriers to speech.

Step #6:
If giving a presentation, make your presentation interesting. Implement specific strategies designed to help those with hearing loss enjoy and learn from your presentation.

• If traveling by car, request that the car radio be turned off.

• If having a conversation with someone at home while watching TV, press the MUTE button on the remote control or stop the DVD or DVR recording.

3. Seek the support of your Audiologist.
Remember that your Audiologist is always there to help with any special needs you may have and is quite willing to help you develop an assertive communication strategy for all your unique needs.

Communication Strategies for the SPEAKER:

Step #6: When presenting material to a group, keep in mind the members of your audience who are hearing impaired as you prepare your presentation.
As a partner in the communication process, the speaker should make every effort to make the material interesting in ways that can also help the hard-of-hearing members of the audience better understand. An awareness of their special communication needs is critical.

When preparing your presentation, remember that deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals rely on visual materials as the best way to receive information. With that in mind, • Begin your presentation with an outline. Distri-bute this overview of your agenda in written form. Reinforce the outline on the first slide of your presentation.

• Be aware your rate of speech and pause between each topic (or slide) and let the audience know you are transitioning to a new topic or slide.

• When referencing handouts, give your audience enough time to read the materials before you continue speaking.

• Maintain eye contact. Stop talking when you turn your back to the audience to write on board.

• Do not clutter your PowerPoint presentation with unnecessary graphics.

• Use at least an 18 point sans serif font in upper and lower case.

• Make sure there is high contrast between the background and the font you use.

• Videos and pictures must be captioned.

• Reinforce the points of your presentation with a conclusion slide.


Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D., owner and practicing audiologist at Advanced Hearing Solutions in Englewood, FL is an experienced professional whose career has been devoted to helping people of all ages hear and understand more clearly.

With over 23 years of experience, Dr. Crosby’s career path is marked by the pursuit of advanced education. After completing her undergraduate requirements, she received her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Florida State University and her Doctorate in Audiology from the University of Florida.

Her credibility as an authority grew during her tenure as the Director of Audiology at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota, FL from 1991-1998. Today, in addition to managing a successful audiology practice, Dr. Crosby just completed her second term as president of The Florida Academy of Audiology.

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