When you are out with a group of friends, entertaining family at a dinner party or spending time with loved ones celebrating a special occasion, communicating in a social setting with hearing loss presents its own set of unique challenges.
Multiple conversations occurring at once, each with their own interjections and tangents, make staying connected to everyone in the group a challenge even for those with perfect hearing.
If you or a loved one is dealing with hearing loss, here are some tips for great communication in a group setting.
Be mindful of volume
This goes for both people with hearing loss and those interacting with them. The volume of a conversation can grow exponentially when a group of friends get together, and can be intimidating for someone with hearing loss.[i] If you notice the volume of a conversation rising, focus extra attention on the person speaking to stay engaged in the conversation.
Conversely, remember to be mindful of your own volume by trying not to talk over others. Let the conversation flow naturally and if you get behind on the topic or mishear someone, don’t hesitate to voice your concerns to the group.
Keep track of the conversation
Have you ever missed part of a conversation and spent the next few moments trying to figure out what you missed? Before you know it, you missed another part of the conversation and are trapped in a cycle of missed information.
Make a concerted effort to keep track of the conversation. For example, instead of asking “what” or asking someone “say that again”, reiterate what you did hear to get the speaker to repeat what they said. Is the group planning on going out at a specific time? Rephrase by asking, “What time are we going out?” or “When did you say we were going out?” to stay involved in the conversation without asking for constant repetition.[ii]
Use nonverbal communication to your advantage
Make your senses work together; eye contact is a great way to make hearing easier. When you are able to see the person you are speaking with, you can better connect with what he or she is saying. Trying to have a conversation across the room or between rooms with someone you cannot see is a quick way to become disengaged if you miss something he or she said.[iii] You may not be able to hear everything someone says in a social setting, but by keeping eye contact, you can stay better tuned in to both body language and the conversation.
One of the most important tips for communicating with others in a social setting is to try not to get discouraged if you miss a part of the conversation. Struggling with hearing loss is challenging, and sometimes you cannot help but grow frustrated when hearing loss is keeping you from staying fully absorbed in conversation. However, by recognizing there will be times when you may not be able to hear every part of a conversation or that you may have to do some catching up, you take the first step in setting yourself up for success.
Focus on these tips (and the tools you have developed yourself) and go into every social setting or conversation with confidence instead of apprehension. After all, the most important part of any group setting is about spending time with people you care about, perfect hearing or not!
[i] Interacting in group settings with hearing loss. (2013, December 12). Retrieved from http://www.healthyhearing.com/report/51675-Interacting-in-groups-settings-with-hearing-loss
[ii] Tseng, M.D., L. (n.d.). Communication Tips for People with Hearing Loss… and Family and Friends. Retrieved from https://www.hihealthinnovations.com/page/hearinglosscommunicationtips
[iii] Tseng, M.D., L. (n.d.). Communication Tips for People with Hearing Loss… and Family and Friends. Retrieved from https://www.hihealthinnovations.com/page/hearinglosscommunicationtips