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Communication Strategies

Communication Strategies

Even though fall marks the end of the summer, it is one of the most vibrant times of the year. It is my favorite weather to go for a run in, or meet a friend for a walk. The brightly colored leaves and crisp air are guaranteed to wake up your senses more than a shot of espresso. Although if you add a cup of espresso with the walk it just doesn’t get any better! I was taking one of these soothing walks with my friend the other day following a yoga class. Our favorite coffee shop sadly is near the “L” train, so our conversation kept getting interrupted by the train and I found myself struggling to hear. It’s times like these I can sympathize with my hearing-impaired clients. The increased amount of effort needed to hear in noisy environments takes the enjoyment out of the conversation. It’s not that I can’t hear but I just cannot understand the words when the train flies by. This problem is the number one complaint of my clients. No, not the train flying by, but the loss of clarity in speech. Rarely does someone tell me they can’t hear, but rather most of my clients’ say they can hear…they just can’t understand.

Why is that? It comes down to simple anatomy. Typically, hearing loss starts in the high frequencies and slowly progresses to the mid and low frequencies. High frequency speech sounds are the voiceless consonants. These are the airy sounds in speech like an s, p, or th.  These sounds tend to be at the beginning and end of a word. Whereas vowels and voiced consonants occur in the low and mid frequencies and give us the sense of volume in speech.

Someone with a sloping high frequency hearing loss will hear volume (low frequencies) but lose the clarity (high frequency voiceless consonants) in speech. This gradual sloping loss also occurs slowly so those with hearing loss often do not realize it is happening. They will initially feel their difficulties are due to the environment or people mumbling until others point it out.

Hearing aids help to correct the loss and give the speech signal clarity. Yet, sometimes that is not enough which is where communication strategies can be helpful.  Successful communication only works if all those involved in a conversation are using good communication strategies. And we tend to put forth our worst manners with those we love the most. Think about it. If your speaking with your spouse you tend to multi-task. We try to carry on conversations from separate rooms or while were running water washing dishes with the television on in the background. Whereas with a friend or co-worker we take the time to pause what we’re doing and have a conversation. It’s not that we like our co-workers more but rather that we are most comfortable with our spouse and therefore tend to be more casual in our daily communication.

The following is a list of communication strategies meant to help ease communication. I’m sure none of these will be shocking but sometimes we just need to be gently reminded about good manners; take your elbows off the table, chew with your mouth closed, and look at me when you are talking.

Practicing good communication strategies is not hard. Just making minor changes can immensely improve the flow of your conversations.

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