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How to Cope with Difficult Listening Situations

  • Ask the speaker to speak in a good light and to face the listener, so that speech-reading skills can be used.
  • Ask the speaker to speak clearly and naturally, but not to shout or exaggerate mouth movements.
  • If you do not understand what a speaker is saying, ask the speaker to repeat or rephrase the statement.
  • If entering a group in the middle of a conversation, ask one person to sum up the gist of the conversation.
  • If someone is speaking at a distance, that person should be asked to stand closer.
  • If the speaker turns his/her head away, ask him/her to face you to permit optimal speech-reading and listening.
  • If you are attempting to understand speech in the presence of noise, try to move yourself and the speaker away from the source of the noise.
  • When in a communication situation requiring exact information, such as asking directions or obtaining schedules for a trip, request that the speaker write the crucial information.
  • If the speaker is talking while eating, smoking or chewing, request that he/she not do so, because it makes speech-reading difficult.
  • A person who has hearing loss in only one ear should keep the good ear facing the speaker at all times.
  • If possible, avoid rooms with poor acoustics. If meetings are held in such rooms, request that they be transferred to rooms with less reverberation (if possible).
  • Arrive early for meetings, so that you can sit close to the speaker. If possible, sit along the perimeter in a restaurant, with your back to the source of noise. This is particularly important for those who use hearing aids.
  • If you are going to a movie or to the theater, read the reviews in advance to familiarize yourself with the plot.
  • In an extremely noisy situation, limit conversation to before the noise has started or after the noise has subsided.
  • Normal hearing people do this all the time. For example, if a plane goes overhead and a conversation is going on, most people will halt their conversations and wait until the plane has passed.

Reference: Kaplan, H. (2001). Counseling Adults Who Are Hearing Impaired. In R. Hull (Ed.), Aural Rehabilitation: Serving Children and Adults. San Diego: Singular/Thomas Learning.

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