Tips for Enjoying Conversations Again

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With the Holidays upon us, we can expect a number of things: twinkling lights draped across our neighborhood, delicious and indulgent foods all around, and enjoying the company of family and friends. Relaxing and catching up with those around us is a hallmark of the season. Wouldn’t it be nice if these conversations were an easy exchange of thoughts, without all the back and forth of trying to get clear on what’s just been said?

Most of us who are hard of hearing often give up trying to figure out what others are saying, especially if there are several people talking. This holiday season, consider using some of the tips below to reconnect and engage in these discussions again. You might be surprised by how accommodating people are willing to be, and how much they appreciate having your input again.

Set The Stage

If you are able to, try to create an environment conducive to hearing well. Reduce background noises and arrange yourself so that the people you are speaking with are not backlit. Try to position yourself so that it’s easy to face each person in the group, especially if the audio and acoustics in the space you’re in are poor. And most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask the group to help arrange in this way to allow you to stay engaged.

Let People Know How They Can Help

It’s often surprising how eager people are to make the small and necessary adjustments that can go a long way in helping those of us with hearing difficulties hear better. It’s important to be open about your hearing capacity, in the same way someone who needs glasses easily speaks up if he or she can’t see relevant information. Hearing loss is no different, but is less apparent and thus requires that we communicate our needs clearly.

Some simple suggestions you can request from those you converse with are not to eat or chew when talking to you, as you need to see their mouths to fully grasp their words. On that note, ask them to refrain from covering their mouth (as when smoking, etc), and to look at you when they’re speaking with you. If you’re in a group conversation, ask that you are addressed by name when someone begins talking to you. If there is a sudden change of topic, ask that someone announces “new subject,” or something similar. Ask them to use facial expressions and gestures, to speak clearly and at a moderate pace, and to avoid over-emphasizing words or shouting. Above all else, give them a sense of what it’s like to be in your position to help them empathize with your perspective.

Play Your Part

It’s easy to get frustrated when things get confusing or difficult to understand in a conversation, but creating tension makes for an awkward and unsatisfying exchange. In order to maximize your capacity to understand what’s being said in a conversation, you need to be able to focus on a number of factors. Facial expressions, gestures, lip movements, and external cues in a group setting all mean that concentration is a crucial element that you will need to bring to the table. If you miss something, instead of saying “what?” which can abruptly stop the flow in conversation, try repeating what you think you heard. That small difference can keep the conversation fluid and show others that you’re at least trying to understand. It’s also helpful to react with facial expressions to give the speaker an idea of how you’re receiving what is being said.

Take it Easy

Social engagements are meant to be fun and nourishing, not stressful and taxing. If you find yourself feeling too tired to concentrate or are not feeling well, allow yourself to bow out and rest. It takes energy and focus to stay engaged in a conversation, with or without hearing, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you’re not prepared to read all the cues you’ll need. Be patient with yourself, and with those who make an effort to speak with you, and thank them for trying.

Hearing loss isn’t something any of us want to deal with, but luckily there are many ways we can make the most out of our situation. It takes time to adjust to approaching conversations this way, but be patient and have faith in your own ability to adapt. Above all else, maintain your sense of humor and aim to stay positive and relaxed.

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