Communication is reliably reported as one of the most—if not the most—significant factors to building and preserving 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 about 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among employers. In fact, of five leading skill sets employers consider most valuable when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From maintaining healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication affects nearly every part of our lives. Striving to develop our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we desire to make some positive improvements.
How to become an effective communicator
Growing to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it will call for some basic skills and the willingness to practice.
A good place to start is to acknowledge that the objective of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and appreciated. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as significantly, requires strong listening skills.
In fact, 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 capacity to formulate a relevant and meaningful reply. This lack of ability to understand is the root cause of countless misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Improving listening skills, then, is the single most significant thing you can do to become a better communicator. And while active listening can be difficult in its own right, hearing loss will make things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening requires dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by totally comprehending the communication can you produce a relevant and substantive response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are almost always preoccupied listeners.
But what creates 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 highly stressed or anxious, you recognize how difficult it can be to pay attention. You’re more likely to be concentrated on your own thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to lose out on crucial non-verbal signals and to misread what others are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss itself is a major source. You may become anxious about missing important information or coming up with embarrassing replies. And, the struggle to hear speech in the existence of hearing loss is a source of stress and strain itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal tendency 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. Remaining inside of the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s communication.
Hearing loss produces 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 continuous catch-up virtually ensures that you’ll never completely understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both get you to misread the message. This introduces the possibility of you becoming upset or irritated with a message that the other person never actually intended to send.
This at the very least wastes time and in the worst case produces bad feelings. Not to mention the aggravation of the individual who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack self-confidence, you’ll find it very difficult to assert yourself while socializing. 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 worse, of course, because your misinterpretations could be perceived as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re continuously requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it difficult 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 several choices, but because hearing aids have come so far with respect to recognizing and amplifying speech, they really are the perfect solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a host of wonderful features made specifically for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models have background noise suppression, directional microphones, and state-of-the-art digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without having to struggle to hear speech, you can focus all of your efforts on comprehending the message. Then, as you become a more effective active-listener, your confidence, assertiveness, and speaking skills will all take care of themselves.
If you have hearing loss and you’re prepared to start strengthening your distraction-free listening skills, arrange your hearing test today.