Communication is consistently cited as one of the most—if not the most—crucial factors to strengthening and maintaining healthy relationships. As reported by the PBS program The Emotional Life:
“How couples behave when solving problems together or arguing can predict the character and success of their relationship. A raised eyebrow, a hand on the arm, or a greeting all may seem like small things, but research shows that the quality of everyday interactions can make or break a relationship.”
Similarly, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of approximately 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand set of skills among employers. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most valuable when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication influences practically every element of our lives. Seeking to improve our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to begin if we desire to make some positive changes.
How to become an effective communicator
Growing to be an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it will call for some elementary skills and the willingness to practice.
The initial step is to realize that the goal of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all parties can be heard and appreciated. This calls for assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as significantly, requires powerful listening skills.
The fact is, listening skills may be the most vital component of communication. The explanation is simple: if you are not able to understand what is being said, you won’t have the ability to formulate a relevant and meaningful reply. This lack of ability to understand is the root cause of many misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Developing listening skills, then, is the single most significant thing you can do to become a better communicator. And while active listening can be challenging on its own, hearing loss makes things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening necessitates devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by totally comprehending the message can you craft a relevant and significant response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are nearly always distracted listeners.
But what creates the distraction?
Here are four common sources of distraction and how hearing loss tends to make things even worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you know how difficult it can be to concentrate. You’re more liable to be focused on your personal thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to lose out on crucial non-verbal signs and to misread what other people are saying.
With respect to stress, hearing loss by itself is a major source. You may feel anxious about missing out on important information or coming up with awkward responses. And, the battle to hear speech in the presence of hearing loss is a source of stress and strain by itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal inclination to wander. You can’t both pay attention to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Staying inside of the present moment and concentrating on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss creates a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re working to determine what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying right now. The continuous catching-up almost guarantees that you’ll never properly understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both cause you to misinterpret the message. This presents the possibility of you becoming upset or agitated with a message that the other person never actually meant to send.
This at the very least wastes time and in the worst case manufactures bad feelings. Not to mention the irritation of the person who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack self-confidence, you’ll find it difficult to assert yourself while communicating. You’ll likely also be preoccupied with what the other person thinks rather than on the content of what they’re stating.
Hearing loss makes things much worse, as you can imagine, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re consistently requesting clarification on simple points, it makes it difficult to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Coming to be a better communicator requires becoming a better listener, but how can you become a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have a few options, but because hearing aids have advancedso far in terms of identifying and amplifying speech, they actually are the perfect solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a number of fantastic features made primarily for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models have background noise suppression, directional microphones, and sophisticated digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without the need to strain to hear speech, you can concentrate all of your energy on understanding the message. Then, as you become a better active-listener, your self-confidence, assertiveness, and speaking skills will all take care of themselves.
If you have hearing loss and you’re prepared to begin building distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.