Communication is regularly reported as one of the most—if not the most—crucial factors to building and sustaining 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.”
Likewise, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of nearly 600 employers found 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 sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication impacts virtually every element of our lives. Seeking to develop our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to begin if we desire to make some positive improvements.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Growing to be an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it will require some elementary skills and the motivation to practice.
A good place to start is to understand that the objective of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of information where all parties can be heard and appreciated. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as significantly, requires powerful listening skills.
As a matter of fact, listening skills may be the most significant part of communication. The explanation is very simple: if you fail to understand what is being said, you won’t have the capacity to formulate a relevant and significant response. This lack of ability to understand is the underlying cause of many 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 is often difficult in its own right, hearing loss makes things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening necessitates investing all attention to the speaker. Only by fully understanding the communication can you craft a relevant and substantial reply, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always preoccupied listeners.
But what triggers the distraction?
Here are four typical sources of distraction and how hearing loss tends to make things even 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 inclined to be focused on your personal thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to miss out on crucial non-verbal signals and to misinterpret what other people are saying.
With respect to stress, hearing loss itself is a significant source. You may become anxious about missing important ideas or coming up with embarrassing replies. 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 natural tendency to wander. You can’t simultaneously listen to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Staying inside of the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s communication.
Hearing loss creates a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re working to understand what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying right now. The persistent catch-up almost guarantees that you’ll never totally understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both lead you to misinterpret the message. This presents the possibility of you becoming upset or agitated 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 irritation 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 socializing. You’ll probably 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, of course, 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 you
Coming to be a better communicator requires becoming a better listener, but how can you come to be a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have a few options, but because hearing aids have come so far with respect to recognizing and amplifying speech, they actually are the perfect solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a host of tremendous features made primarily for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models come with background noise suppression, directional microphones, and advanced digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without the need to strain to hear speech, you can focus all of your energy on comprehending 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, schedule your hearing test today.