As we are gearing up for holiday festivities and gatherings, one thing that we may overlook is our challenges with hearing loss. Luckily, there are some things we can do to prepare ourselves and ensure we have the best experience possible.
When thinking about our hearing, we often think of our ears doing all the work, but that is not entirely true: our brains do the heavy lifting when it comes to hearing and comprehending what is going on around us.
Our ears are like funnels to our brains: they welcome sounds in, then it is up to the brain to interpret and distinguish what is useful and throw out what isn’t. Comprehending speech and making sense of other noises is the brain’s job.
If you want to improve your listening skills, there are things you can do. You can work to teach your brain and enhance your capability to connect to your environment.
Listening and understanding is essential to successful communication. Hearing devices can prove extremely useful for hearing more of your surroundings. Even the best hearing aids cannot improve your listening skills, however. Listening entails blocking out background noises and distractions to focus on the sounds that are important.
Whenever we actively converse with others, we are exercising our brains and teaching them to listen better. Active listening is critical to sustaining communication abilities as we grow older.
Hearing Does Not Equal Listening
Merely identifying the existence of sound is the act of hearing. Think of a time you were surprised or frightened by an unidentified loud noise. You heard it and probably knew which direction it was coming from, but you didn’t understand it. This is known as signal-based processing. For active listening, you must both hear a sound and know what it is.
Strategies for Communication
The discrepancy between listening and hearing can become more apparent as we grow older. You may hear what is being said but not quite understand it. This is where training your brain can be helpful. Fortunately, we can teach our brains to listen and understand at a proper level.
Tips for enhancing communication and listening skills:
- Ask for help: let others know you have some trouble hearing and they will slow down their speech and speak more clearly.
- Look at what a hearing aid can and cannot do for you, so you understand the limitations and how to best make up for them.
- Take a listening improvement class: they teach how to train your brain.
- When watching TV and movies, use subtitles or closed captioning.
- Research other technologies that support noise cancelling to help you filter out background noises.
Exercises to exercise your brain and develop better listening abilities:
- Listen to a friend read a magazine aloud, then read alongside.
- Listen to an audiobook and read it at the same time.
- Evaluate your understanding by first watching a movie without closed captioning, then watching it again with closed captioning. See if there is anything you missed the first time.
As an additional challenge, do any of these exercises in a noisy environment with background noise. This will help your brain to hone in on what you are focused on.
The capacity to hear does not always guarantee an good listening comprehension. Hearing devices can be great to help you hear better, but they may not do all the work for you. Fortunately, practicing active listening can help you improve your communication abilities and listening skills.
Remember that the first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.
Diablo Hearing Services 2301 Camino Ramon, STE 106 San Ramon (925) 394-4646