Are you frustrated by communication struggles? Does your partner or family member have a hearing loss? Do you get tired of repeating yourself and talking over background noise? Remember, communication is a two-way street involving a speaker and a listener. The definition of communication is the exchange of thoughts, messages or information, or the art and technique of using words effectively in imparting one’s ideas.

The sense of hearing is a vital part of the communication process. Having hearing loss makes it that much more difficult. The use of good digital technology properly fit is the first step in staying connected to the ones we love and enjoying the activities that keep us active. Even the best technology does not mean we don’t have to practice good communication habits. Here are some important guidelines to ensure the listener and speaker get their messages understood.

First let’s clarify how we share information. Three processes are involved: hearing, vision and cognitive functions (i.e., the brain). What we may not hear, we add by seeing sounds formed on the lips or watching facial and body gestures. Only about one third of the sounds made in the English language are visible on the lips. The rest are made inside the mouth and can not be seen. That is why it is very difficult to rely only on lipreading. Then what we miss through visual or auditory information, we use our brains to fill in the blanks. Knowing a topic ahead of time helps our brains fill the gaps with anticipated words that would be used in context of the conversation.

Clear speech is when the speaker attempts to use language in a precise, accurate and fully formed manner. When this is done correctly, the speech naturally slows down and gets louder. The speaker should use a good tone of voice, stressing key words and pausing between sentences and phrases. Clear speech requires concentration and effort.

The environment plays an important role as well. If we are in a noisy place, look to see if it is possible to move to a quieter location. In a restaurant, request a table away from the main entrance or walkway. Choose a smaller room if it’s available and think about going during off-peak hours to avoid crowds and noise. Don’t be afraid to be assertive and let the host/hostess know your needs! When seated, face the person you want to communicate with and make sure the face is clearly visible and well lit. At home, avoid talking to someone from another room or while your back is turned away. Turn down any background noise that’s possible and face each other before beginning the conversation.

Getting one’s attention before we start speaking is another very important key feature in successful communication. Alerting the person we want to talk to and giving the specific topic first allows the listener’s brain to be ready to receive that information and anticipate the upcoming vocabulary. Trying to talk to someone whose attention is focused on another task, such as reading, watching TV or working on a computer, is never a good idea!

All of these guidelines implemented with complete awareness and cooperation from all parties involved will assist in the success of good communication habits. In turn, this will help to reduce stress, miscommunication and overall frustration, which lead to other serious issues, such as isolation and depression. Good communication habits are essential for good health!

Christine has been a licensed audiologist since 1999 and holds a B.S. in Business Administration , M.S. in Communication Disorders and Sciences (Audiology), and a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A) from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association and is a member of the American Academy of Audiology. She is the owner of Conejo Hearing Center, located at 5655 Lindero Canyon Road, Suite 506, in Westlake Village. For more information, call 818.991.3800 or visit ConejoHearingCenter.com.