Communication is reliably reported as one of the most—if not the most—crucial factors to strengthening and sustaining healthy relationships. As stated 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.”
Likewise, communication skills are just as important at work: one 2014 survey of roughly 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among recruiters. In fact, of five leading skill sets employers consider most important when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From preserving healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication affects practically every part of our lives. Seeking to develop our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we want to make some positive improvements.
How to become an effective communicator
Becoming an effective communicator is not complicated, but it does call for some basic skills and the motivation to practice.
A good place to start is to acknowledge that the objective of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of information where all parties can be heard and appreciated. This demands assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as significantly, requires powerful listening skills.
The reality is, listening skills may be the most important part of communication. The reason is very simple: if you are unable to understand what is being said, you won’t have the capacity to articulate a relevant and significant response. This failure to understand is the root cause of countless misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Developing 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 on its own, hearing loss makes things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening calls for devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly comprehending the message can you develop a relevant and significant response, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always distracted listeners.
But what leads to 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 understand how difficult it can be to listen closely. You’re more liable to be focused on your own thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to lose out on important non-verbal signs and to misinterpret what others are saying.
With respect to stress, hearing loss itself is a major source. You may feel anxious about missing important ideas or coming up with embarrassing responses. And, the battle 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 difficult because our minds have the natural inclination to wander. You can’t both pay attention to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text message, and plan what you’re going to say next. Remaining inside of the present moment and concentrating on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle details of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss creates a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re attempting to figure out what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The constant catch-up almost guarantees 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 chance of you becoming upset or irritated 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 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 perceived as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re frequently asking for clarification on simplistic points, it makes it hard to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
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 choices, but because hearing aids have advanced so far in terms of recognizing and amplifying speech, they actually are the ideal solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a variety of powerful features made exclusively 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 needing to struggle to hear speech, you can focus all of your energy on understanding 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 ready to begin building distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.