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May is just around the corner and will be here before we know it. Each May, we recognize Better Hearing Month, or Better Hearing and Speech Month. Better Hearing and Speech Month is designed to raise awareness for communication disorders and to find suitable treatment options for those who experience speaking or hearing problems. Let’s talk about some ways we can all prioritize our hearing and communicate better with those who experience speaking or hearing problems.

Hearing Protection

The first step to protecting your ears is understanding what can damage them. This quick guide will help you understand where everyday activities and noises, like a washing machine and a sporting event, rank on a sound level as measured by decibels. The longer the exposure to loud noises, the more likely damage can occur. It’s important to control noise level when you can, such as how loud you listen to the television or your headphones. You should always wear hearing protection on the job when you are exposed to loud noises, like power tools or airplane engines.

Regular Hearing Tests

Your hearing is a gift you need to maintain. Hearing loss develops slowly over time, which is why it is important for you to have your hearing tested regularly. Periodic tests will measure if you’re experiencing any decline and your results will be compared to earlier tests. Diagnostic testing with your audiologist will help you determine if you need to adjust anything in your lifestyle or if you need to begin using hearing devices.

Communicating with Individuals with Hearing Loss

Now that you know a bit more about how to prioritize your own hearing, it’s important to understand how to communicate with individuals with hearing loss—especially if you are experiencing hearing loss yourself. Communicating well involves active participation from all parties. Active listening includes facing the person you’re speaking to and positioning yourself so you can see and hear them well. If you or the person you’re conversing with hears better out of one ear, consider that when you position yourself near them. You should be clear about who you are talking to by addressing them. Speak slowly and clearly and pause between sentences; this does not mean that you need to yell, nor does it mean you have to speak extremely slowly. Avoid interrupting one another and be patient if you or your partner didn’t catch something. If important information is exchanged that you’ll need to remember, confirm the details and write it down.

Wearing masks to maintain COVID-19 safety precautions has made communication difficult for some, as the mask prevents the ability to read lips and it can muffle sound and tone. We have some tips for communicating with masks.