New Hearing Aids and Difficulty Communicating with Loved Ones

New Hearing Aids and Difficulty Communicating with Loved Ones

Hearing aids have the ability to provide sounds that were previously inaudible to the wearer. However, this assistive hearing technology only provides sufficient sound amplification when:

  • The hearing aids have been correctly selected, customized and fitted, which is something we also do as licensed audiologists.

But there’s another piece of the puzzle – namely “time.”

Why Adjusting to New Hearing Aids Is a Slow Process

Even after being tested and fitted for hearing aids, it can take anywhere from 4 to 20 weeks for the brain to adjust to the new audio input it receives. This adjustment period is 100% natural – similar to how you need time to grow accustomed to a new pair of shoes or reading glasses. 

However, progress is often slowest when conversing with your frequent communication partner (FCP) – whether it’s a family member, coworker, roommate or best friend. And it can be extremely frustrating that the one person with whom you communicate most is also the one person whom you initially understand the least.

But with some small changes in the way you communicate with your FCP, both of you will benefit from greater comprehension and a stronger overall connection.

Improving Comprehension with Your Frequent Communication Partner

If you’ve ever attended one of my sessions at The Hearing Solution, you may already be familiar with the “ADC” concept, which stands for:

  • Attention
  • Distance
  • Competing noise

These 3 ingredients are crucial for improved comprehension.

Let’s look at each variable (in reverse order) to better understand how controlling these factors can improve conversations with your frequent communication partner.

1. Attention 

Attention is the variable we can control best – although it takes a conscious and deliberate effort. This difficulty explains why the creator of the clEAR auditory training program, Nancy Tye Murray, PhD, is quoted as saying that, "There is no such thing as a spontaneous conversation when you have hearing loss.”

2. Distance

Distance is a little easier to control. If you’re sitting across from your FCP at a large table, for example, you can always move closer to hear them better.

3. Competing Noise

Competing noise is the hardest variable to manage since you can’t always control your environment. However, it’s sometimes possible to ask that the music or TV be turned down to hear more clearly. 

In addition, the hearing aids we carry all come with sound-balancing technology that can help weed out ambient, background noise in real-time.

And she’s right.

Active listening doesn’t happen automatically. And for this reason, “focus” or “attentiveness” may be a better description than simply “attention.”

Attentiveness requires more concentration. But the potential impact – for both you and your FCP – is worth the investment. To understand why, just consider life without attentiveness:

  • It becomes so much easier to “tune out,” which makes it harder to build strong social bonds with your frequent communication partner.
  • Lack of attentiveness can also lead to resentment or arguments if one side feels like they’re not being “heard.”

Life is already complicated enough – with screens, notifications and other stimuli constantly vying for our attention. With all these distractions, it’s so easy to not be “present” when speaking with others.

Attentiveness is incredibly important in all relationships. But it becomes even more vital when there is a hearing loss present.

How to Boost Attentiveness (and Improve Your Hearing)

There is no set formula that works in every situation. But below are some best practices that can help you and your FCP communicate with one another more effectively.

1. Remove All Distractions

Again, life is full of auditory and visual stimuli competing for our attention. When communicating is important, it’s best to remove these distractions as much as possible. So turn off any notifications, music or screens that could impede your ability to pay attention.

2. Focus Your Thoughts

Not all distractions are external. The tiny voice in your head can hijack your attention just as easily as a loud TV can. And for those with hearing loss, it’s very common to spend a lot of time in one’s head.

But when speaking with your FCP, you need to put your own thoughts to the side and focus on what they’re saying. This means actively listening to your partner instead of anticipating your next response or mulling over the outcome of the conversation.

It’s also important that you let your FCP finish speaking before jumping in with your own thoughts.

3. Make Eye Contact

Sustained eye contact is important for all conversations – not just those with your frequent communication partner. 

One Final Tip for Improved Comprehension: the Split Attention Method

For those with normal hearing, most of the above “best practices” happen organically. The brain automatically zeros in on the conversation partner – even when there are plenty of competing stimuli involved.

But for those with hearing loss, active listening often takes a lot more time and effort.

However, it’s possible to make the road a little easier if you learn the “Split Attention” method developed by Roy Whitten, PhD, Priest, and CEO of the Whitten and Roy Partnership.

His unique approach has profoundly impacted my own ability to focus during conversations. And it may be able to help you become a more attentive and active listener as well. 

To see the Split Attention method in action, be sure to watch Roy’s video below.

And if you have questions about hearing aid testing, fitting or customization, please schedule an appointment at our Sacramento clinic today.

Interested in learning more? Attend one of our regular hearing solution events to learn more about our unique approach to hearing loss or give us a call at 916-646-2471.

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