Communication is consistently cited as one of the most—if not the most—crucial 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.”
Similarly, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of about 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among employers. In fact, of five leading skill sets employers consider most important when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication influences nearly every part of our lives. Attempting 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
Becoming an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it will require some basic skills and the disposition to practice.
The initial step is to realize that the goal 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 skills, but, just as critically, requires strong listening skills.
The fact is, listening skills may be the most important component of communication. The explanation is very simple: if you are not able to understand what is being said, you won’t be able to articulate a relevant and meaningful reply. This lack of ability to understand is the root cause of many misunderstandings, quarrels, and bad feelings.
Developing 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 makes things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening requires devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly comprehending the communication can you create a relevant and substantive reply, and that’s why ineffective speakers are almost always distracted 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 overly stressed or anxious, you know how difficult it can be to listen closely. You’re more inclined to be concentrated on your personal thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to miss out on critical non-verbal signals and to misread what others are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss itself is a considerable source. You may become anxious about missing out on important ideas or coming up with awkward replies. And, the struggle to hear speech in the existence of hearing loss is a source of stress and strain by itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal propensity to wander. You can’t both listen to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text message, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Staying within the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss creates a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re working to determine what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The continuous catch-up virtually guarantees that you’ll never properly understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both cause you to misinterpret the message. This presents the chance of you becoming upset or irritated 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 irritation of the person 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 probably 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 continually requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it difficult to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
Becoming 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 in terms of recognizing and amplifying speech, they really are the ideal solution.
Contemporary 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 state-of-the-art digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without the need to strain to hear speech, you can concentrate all of your efforts on understanding 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 prepared to begin strengthening your distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.