Almost 50% of couples attribute good communication to the success of their relationship. Good communication between spouses and friends relies on communication strategies used to portray information and hearing healthcare to listen. Listening in many ways is more effective than speaking.

Listening and understanding conversations begins with the ear’s ability to hear sounds. Hearing loss can present itself in a gradual manner and others may notice hearing loss occurring before the individual with the hearing loss does. If a spouse or friend begins mentioning to you that you are not hearing conversations accurately anymore, it may be time to have your hearing abilities evaluated by a professional. Some of the first signs of hearing loss are answering questions incorrectly because the original question was not heard correctly and frequently needing to ask for repetitions of what was said.

When situations become too difficult for someone to hear and understand conversations, the individual with hearing loss tends to withdraw leading to less social interactions with friends and family. Hearing and understanding conversations can make a world of a difference when engaging in social activities with loved ones. Therefore, it is very important to have hearing abilities evaluated annually and corrected with individualized hearing devices if necessary. The ability to easily hear and understand conversations contributes to successful interactions with family and friends with little stress and effort.

Hearing aids are not just hearing aids anymore. They are more than those things that used to squeal in your grandparent’s ears. Hearing aids get smaller, yet smarter and more powerful every year. The advancements in hearing aids over the years have gone from analog to digital, large boxes with wires to almost invisible in-the-ear devices, and no connectivity to multiple types of connectivity.

Many hearing aids now have the ability to connect to wireless devices allowing for more clarity and the option of hands free communication. The types of connection signals that most hearing aids currently use are Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz. These signals enable the hearing aids to receive and send information to cell phones, TV boxes and media clips. Cell phones can be paired with many hearing aids to enable streaming of phone calls and media straight to the hearing aids as well as the use of apps to help make adjustments on the hearing aids. No more fiddling with small buttons on the back of hearing aids to make adjustments!

Just like the ability to stream from a cell phone, the hearing aids can be paired to a TV box that will send the TV signal right into the hearing aids as if you were wearing a headset. The signal quality and clarity remains constant while the hearing aids are in range of the TV box. Gone are the days of needing to blast the TV volume to be able to understand the dialogue on your favorite TV show.

Understanding speech in a noisy environment is always a challenge.  The ability to successfully understand speech in noise is dependent on cognitive abilities and how well the brain processes sound. Advanced hearing aid technology can help with those two processes, but there is also a fun and enjoyable training technique that can provide additional support.

Musical training is a fantastic way to strengthen one’s cognitive abilities and brain processing. Studies have shown that playing music helps lessen age-related decline in the auditory brain. As individuals age, the brain’s ability to process sounds decreases and music has been proven to strengthen the brain’s processing. Neural response studies have been able to show that younger individuals have faster neural responses to sounds than older individuals. However, when older individuals with musical training were evaluated, studies have shown that their ability to pick up speech and neural responses were as strong and sometimes more accurate than those of younger participants and others without any musical training at all. Musical training can be used in conjunction with amplification to strengthen the brain’s ability to detect details and process difficult listening environments.

Hearing loss can greatly affect one’s ability to participate in conversations, especially in noisy environments. Using good communication strategies is key to helping those with hearing loss hear conversations accurately.

First, use clear speech when talking to someone with hearing loss. Many times, it is not that the individual with hearing loss missed the entire sentence, but they just need the speech to be spoken clearly and more distinctly. Using a key phrase with clear speech can also help guide the conversations along more smoothly. An example of a key phrase is “Now I am going to change subjects.” Letting the individual know that there will be a change in topic is helpful even to those without hearing loss.

Second, use anticipatory strategies. Anticipatory strategies include asking for the topic of the conversations ahead of time, reading about current events before a meeting or asking for an agenda to follow along with throughout a lecture.

When an individual is unsure if they hear the sentence correctly, they can use repair strategies. Repair strategies include asking for repetition, asking for rephrasing and requesting confirmation. Can you please repeat that? Can you please explain that in a different way? Did you say that the microwave was broken? Those are all examples of repair strategies. 

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