Communication is reliably reported as one of the most—if not the most—crucial factors to building and sustaining healthy relationships. According to 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 nearly 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand set of skills among recruiters. In fact, of five leading skill sets employers consider most important when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From maintaining healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication affects almost every part of our lives. Attempting to improve our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we wish 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 willingness to practice.
The first step is to acknowledge that the objective of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and understood. This calls for assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as importantly, requires powerful listening skills.
In fact, listening skills may be the most vital component of communication. The reason is simple: if you are unable to understand what is being said, you won’t have the ability to articulate a relevant and significant response. This failure to understand is the underlying cause of countless 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 difficult in its own right, hearing loss makes things even trickier.
Hearing Loss and the Barriers to Active Listening
Active listening necessitates devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by totally understanding the communication can you create a relevant and substantial response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are almost always distracted listeners.
But what induces the distraction?
Here are four typical sources of distraction and how hearing loss tends to make things worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you recognize how difficult it can be to concentrate. You’re more likely to be focusing on on your own thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to miss out on essential non-verbal signs and to misinterpret what other people are saying.
In terms of stress, hearing loss by 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 by itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal propensity to wander. You can’t both pay attention to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text message, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Keeping within the present moment and concentrating on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss produces 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 missing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The persistent catch-up almost guarantees that you’ll never properly understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both lead you to misunderstand the message. This introduces the possibility of you becoming upset or agitated 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 individual who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence, you’ll find it 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 thought of as a sign that you just don’t comprehend the message. If you’re frequently asking for clarification on simplistic points, it makes it difficult to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
Coming to be 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 come so far with respect to recognizing and amplifying speech, they actually are the perfect solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a host of amazing features made exclusively 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 struggle to hear speech, you can focus all of your efforts 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 begin building distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.