One of the most common questions asked among hearing professionals is, “How can I improve my hearing?” But often times that's the wrong question entirely. Instead, many people should be asking, “How can I improve my listening?”
Hearing and Listening are Two Different Things
Hearing is a sense that does not involve any conscious decision on your part, on the other hand, listening is an active process which requires attention and energy from you, the listener.
Even if you are wearing hearing aids you may still have difficulty understanding conversations. This is because you may be having difficulty “listening with your brain”.
Hearing involves your ears but listening involves your brain. The good news is that your brain can be trained to listen better by using strategies that compensate for poor hearing.
3 Simple Strategies to Improve Your Hearing
Face the person whom you are trying to hear. The optimal distance for speech understanding is 5 feet. If you are trying to carry on a conversation with anyone further away, you will have difficulty.
Maintain good lighting. If you are in a room where you are able to control the lighting or where you sit in the room, make sure you have enough lighting to be able to see the person's face clearly. You will use some of the visual cues provided by the speaker to pick up their speech, especially in noisy environments. Even people with normal hearing do some lipreading when they are having difficulty.
Reduce the background noise. Avoiding distractions such as the television will improve your ability to understand conversations. If you are having a conversation while trying to wash the dishes, the running water can be a distraction from the speech. If you have control over your environment, try to reduce the background noise as much as possible.
There is also a software program called LACE (Listening and Communication Enhancement) which will help train your brain to listen. LACE has developed five different types of listening exercises to improve your communication skills:
- Pick out a voice in a noisy environment
- Process quick speech
- Focus on one voice out of many
- Learn how to fill in missing words you may have missed
- Improve your auditory memory
More information on this software program is available on Neurotone.com. Think of it like physical therapy for your brain. Your speech understanding can improve by training your brain.
Whether you are going to engage in a more formal listening training program, or use some of the tips I gave you above, improving your listening skills will improve you hearing ability and lead to improved communication with or without hearing aids.
So, next time you want to question your Audiologist about how to improve your hearing, don't forget to always work on your listening!
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