Communication is regularly cited as one of the most—if not the most—significant factors to building 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 just as important at work: one 2014 survey of nearly 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 making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication has an affect on nearly every part of our lives. Attempting to develop our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to begin if we desire to make some positive improvements.
How to become an effective communicator
Coming to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it does call for some basic skills and the willingness to practice.
A good place to start is to understand that the goal of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of ideas where all individuals can be heard and acknowledged. This demands assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as importantly, requires strong listening skills.
The truth is, listening skills may be the most vital component of communication. The explanation is simple: if you cannot understand what is being said, you won’t be able to formulate a relevant and meaningful reply. This lack of ability to understand is the underlying cause of countless misunderstandings, quarrels, and bad feelings.
Improving listening skills, then, is the single most important thing you can do to become a more effective communicator. And while active listening can be challenging in its own right, hearing loss makes things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening necessitates dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by fully understanding the communication can you craft a relevant and substantial response, and that’s why inadequate speakers are nearly always preoccupied listeners.
But what produces the distraction?
Here are four common sources of distraction and how hearing loss has a tendency to make things worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you recognize how challenging it can be to concentrate. You’re more likely to be concentrated on your personal thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to lose out on essential non-verbal signs and to misinterpret what others are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss itself is a leading 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 anxiety and strain by itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is difficult because our minds have the normal tendency to wander. You can’t simultaneously listen to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text, and plan what you’re going to say next. Staying within the present moment and focusing 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 figure out what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The constant catching-up virtually guarantees that you’ll never completely understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both lead you to misread the message. This presents the chance of you becoming upset or annoyed with a message that the other person never actually meant to send.
This at minimum wastes time and at worst produces bad feelings. Not to mention the aggravation of the individual who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence, you’ll find it very difficult to assert yourself while communicating. You’ll probably also be preoccupied with what the other person thinks rather than on the content of what they’re saying.
Hearing loss makes things much worse, not surprisingly, because your misinterpretations could be perceived as a sign that you just don’t comprehend the message. If you’re regularly asking for clarification on simple points, it makes it difficult to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Becoming 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 advanced so far with respect to recognizing and amplifying speech, they actually are the perfect solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a host of outstanding features made primarily for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models have background noise suppression, directional microphones, and advanced digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without having to struggle to hear speech, you can concentrate all of your efforts 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 ready to start strengthening your distraction-free listening skills, book your hearing test today.