We’ve all been in the same situation. Maybe we’re sitting in a noisy restaurant, and our friend is trying to tell us something. A loud clang, or a burst of laughter from another table, and we just keep missing what we want to hear! We can see our friend getting frustrated at having to repeat themselves multiple times, and it’s becoming quite embarrassing to have to ask again… So we just nod along and pretend to understand what’s being said. How does this make us feel? Silly? Lonely? Frustrated? It’s time to make a change.

Do you or your partner often struggle in conversations? Don’t worry, this is normal for someone who is hard of hearing even while wearing a hearing aid. The key to making social interactions more fun is to develop good communication strategies. In this post, we will discuss what you can do as a person with hearing loss to make communication easier for yourself.

I have hearing loss so how can I make conversations easier for me?

1. It’s important to concentrate and keep calm!

Try to keep calm when you miss parts of the conversation. You may feel yourself getting tense or stressed but these negative emotions can make it even harder for you to concentrate on what is being said. Missing things is a normal part of having a hearing loss even when you are wearing hearing aids. Use the conversation strategies below to help yourself in conversations.

2. Be assertive                                              

It can be hard to be confident. But this is an important skill to have. The best way to gain confidence and be assertive is through practice! Explain to people you have hearing loss and how to help you best. Most people will happily oblige once they understand what you need them to do. Try saying something like:

    “I have hearing loss and I need you to face me when you are speaking so I can hear you better. Please don’t shout, just speak at a normal volume while looking at me.”

    3. Ask for repeats and clarification

    Asking for repeats can be daunting. Practice will make perfect and as you become more comfortable asking people for repeats, you will become more confident. Most of us have tried the old “What did you just say?” approach and people get frustrated by this. It makes them feel as if you’re not listening and don’t really care what they have to say. This of course is not true for you! Changing the way you ask for repeats will help. Next time you miss something try saying something like:

    “I keep missing that last part about your new job, could you please try saying it in a different way for me?” or ““I’m sorry, I missed where you said you were going this afternoon?”

    This shows that you have been trying your best to listen to them, and you don’t need them to repeat everything, just a small part you missed. 

    4. Use visual cues

    Everyone naturally lip reads to an extent to help in conversations. Try to be in a well-lit area and face the person who you are listening to. A person’s body language can also tell you a lot about the conversation and how the person is feeling.

    5. Keep the context in mind

    Often we don’t need to hear every word, keep the context of the conversation in mind and this may help you piece together anything you missed. 

    6. Reduce background noise

    Most people with hearing loss find themselves struggling the most when there is background noise. So try to minimise this as much as possible! If you are at home, turn the tv or radio off while having a conversation. If you are in a cafe, try to sit with your back against a wall, that way all sound is coming from in front of you, which may make it easier to hear. Some cafes are also louder than others, so choosing your lunch spot wisely may also help. Check out the Ambient Menu created by our audiologist Laura to find a quiet dining spot. https://theambientmenu.com.au/

    7. Adjust your hearing aids to the right setting

    Many hearing aids come with multiple programs. These can either be accessed through a button push on the hearing aid or through the app on your phone. If you are struggling with conversation in a restaurant, try changing to a speech in noise program or turn on your forward facing microphones only, through your app. If you are unsure whether you have a speech in noise program or how to access it for your particular hearing aid, call your audiologist for assistance. They are happy to help!

    Remember that these strategies will take practice but conversations will get easier for you over time. If you need any more expert advice, you can always ring the friendly Hearing SA team for assistance on 0403 690 980.