Communication is regularly cited as one of the most—if not the most—important factors to building and preserving healthy relationships. According to 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 roughly 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 important when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From preserving healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication has an affect on nearly every part of our lives. Striving to improve our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to start if we want to make some positive changes.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Coming to be an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it does call for some basic skills and the disposition to practice.
The first step is to realize that the objective of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and appreciated. This demands assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as significantly, requires strong listening skills.
In truth, listening skills may be the most significant part of communication. The reason is simple: if you fail to understand what is being said, you won’t have the capacity to formulate a relevant and meaningful response. This lack of ability to understand is the root cause of many misunderstandings, quarrels, and bad feelings.
Improving listening skills, then, is the single most significant thing you can do to become a more effective communicator. And while active listening is often challenging on its own, hearing loss will make things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening necessitates dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by fully comprehending the message can you craft a relevant and significant response, and that’s why inadequate speakers are nearly always distracted listeners.
But what produces the distraction?
Here are four common sources of distraction and how hearing loss tends to make things worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you understand how difficult it can be to pay attention. You’re more liable to be focusing on on your personal thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to lose out on critical non-verbal signals and to misread what other people are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss by itself is a significant source. You may become anxious about missing out on important information or coming up with awkward responses. And, the struggle to hear speech in the presence of hearing loss is a source of anxiety and strain itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal propensity to wander. You can’t simultaneously pay attention to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text message, and plan what you’re going to say next. Keeping within the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle details of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss brings about a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re attempting to understand what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The continual catch-up virtually ensures that you’ll never completely understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both force you to misunderstand the message. This introduces the possibility of you becoming upset or agitated with a message that the other person never actually intended to send.
This at minimum wastes time and at worst manufactures bad feelings. Not to mention the irritation of the individual who is consistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack 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, not surprisingly, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re continually requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it hard to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Coming to be a better communicator necessitates becoming a better listener, but how can you become a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have a few choices, but because hearing aids have come so far in terms of identifying and amplifying speech, they actually are the perfect solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a number of fantastic features made especially for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models come with background noise suppression, directional microphones, and state-of-the-art digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without needing to strain to hear speech, you can focus all of your energy on comprehending the message. Then, as you become a more effective 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 start building distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.