Communication is regularly cited as one of the most—if not the most—important factors to building and maintaining 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 equally 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 leading skill sets employers consider most important when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From preserving healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication impacts practically every aspect of our lives. Seeking to improve our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to start if we want to make some positive changes.
How to become an effective communicator
Coming to be an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it does require some basic skills and the willingness to practice.
A good place to start is to acknowledge that the goal of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of ideas where all parties can be heard and acknowledged. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as significantly, requires powerful listening skills.
The truth 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 be able to formulate a relevant and significant reply. This failure to understand is the root cause of countless 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 is often difficult on its own, hearing loss will make things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening calls for investing all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly understanding the communication can you develop a relevant and substantial response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are nearly always distracted listeners.
But what brings about the distraction?
Here are four typical sources of distraction and how hearing loss has a tendency to make things even worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been highly stressed or anxious, you recognize how challenging it can be to listen closely. You’re more liable to be focused on your personal thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to lose out on critical non-verbal signs and to misinterpret what others are saying.
In terms of stress, hearing loss by itself is a considerable source. You may become 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 itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is difficult because our minds have the natural tendency to wander. You can’t simultaneously pay attention to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text message, 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 details of the speaker’s communication.
Hearing loss brings about a lack of focus because it takes you out of the present moment. If you’re working to figure out what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The constant catch-up almost guarantees that you’ll never totally 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 annoyed with a message that the other person never actually meant to send.
This at the very least wastes time and at worst manufactures bad feelings. Not to mention the aggravation 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 socializing. 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 worse, not surprisingly, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re constantly requesting clarification on simple points, it makes it hard to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Becoming 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 advanced so far with respect to identifying and amplifying speech, they really 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 concentrate 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 ready to begin building distraction-free listening skills, arrange your hearing test today.