Communication Strategies: In the Car

Communicating in the car can be super frustrating, especially if you have difficulty hearing! But worry not, now that you’re experts at communicating at home, you’ll become one in the car too. With the listener, speaker, environmental, and technology tips we share below, you’ll be communicating effectively in no time!

Active listening: You learned to use that at home, and it can be done in the car too! Pay close attention to what your communication partner is saying, and try to anticipate what might be said based on the surroundings and past conversations. If you’ve missed something, repeat back what you think you heard instead of blurting out the lazy “W” word (What?). If possible, look toward your communication partner when he/she is speaking.

Practice: Next time you’re in the car, try playing the “what game” again. Instead of asking “what?” or “pardon me?”, switch your strategy. Here are a couple of good options:

1.  Repeat back what you think you heard: “Did you say we are almost there?”

2.  Ask your communication partner to REPHRASE what he/she said rather than repeat the same thing over again.

Communicating in the Car: Practice

Since you’ve gotten the basics of communication strategies from our first communication strategy blog post, the best way to improve your method of communicating in the car is to practice, practice, practice! See below for a few different strategies you can employ to improve how you communicate and listen!

  • Time for a test drive! Grab a partner and hit the road to practice looking at your listener while you speak, and raising your voice slightly. Just for fun, say a nonsense sentence without getting your listener’s attention first, and while looking away from your listener. Chances are you’ll be asked, “What?” Then repeat the same nonsense sentence looking at your listener (you’ve already gotten his/her attention at this point) and raising your voice just slightly. Your listener might wonder what’s gotten into you, but they will understand what you’ve just said!
  • The next time you run errands with a family member or friend, take turns being the driver and the passenger. See for yourself how much easier it is for you to hear and understand when you are able to turn and fully face your speaker. It’s also easier because you can concentrate more on what is being said when you don’t have to put your attention on driving the car.
  • Be assertive in the car! It’s easy to modify your surroundings when you are the driver. But if you are the passenger, don’t be afraid to ask the driver to turn off the radio, roll up the windows, or turn off the fan. They will be grateful for your suggestions, especially if it means they won’t have to repeat themselves as often.
  • If you didn’t purchase a companion microphone initially with your hearing aids, ask your hearing care provider about this option. If you do have one, try it out in the car. It is so wonderful to hear the speaker’s voice clearly over the road, engine, and wind noise.

Communicating in the Car: Tips, tips, tips!!

Speaker Tip:

Trying to communicate in the car can be very frustrating for both the speaker and the listener. It’s important for the speaker to make sure his/her face is clearly visible to the listener. If the speaker is a passenger, he/she should look directly at the listener when talking. If the speaker is the driver, he or she should angle their face slightly toward the listener rather than toward the driver’s side window. It’s critical that the speaker gets the attention of the listener before he/she begins talking. It’s also helpful for the speaker to raise his or her voice slightly to be heard clearly above the engine noise.

Technology Tip:

Most hearing aids sold today are equipped with wireless technology. This allows the two hearing aids to “talk” to each other, and also to be connected to other compatible devices. One such device is a companion microphone. This is a small wireless microphone that transmits sound directly to the hearing aids, sometimes through a receiving device. The speaker simply clips the microphone onto a shirt collar, and the listener hears the speaker’s voice over all other noises.

Hearing Aid Tips:

  • The car is a common place for new hearing aid users to hear “new” sounds (these sounds have always been there, but they are made louder by hearing aids, making them audible to some people for the first time in many years.) Simply identify the sound, trust that it’s supposed to be there, and enjoy the fact that you are safer in your car when wearing your hearing aids.
  • It’s important to wear your hearing aids in the car. If you have control over the volume of your hearing aids, this is an opportunity to try turning the volume up on the hearing aid closest to the speaker, and turning the volume down on the hearing aid closest to the window to decrease wind noise. Many hearing aids will adapt automatically to the car noise while others may have a special program for the car.
  • Most hearing aids fit today are what we call “open-fit.” This means that the hearing aids do not plug the ear canal, which makes them feel and sound more natural. However, it’s important to understand that these “open-fit” hearing aids cannot block out noises that you would be able to hear even without your hearing aids. Engine and road noises are sounds that are often loud no matter what, so we can’t expect hearing aids to block out a noise that is being heard naturally.

  • There will always be a little bit of car noise that is amplified by your hearing aids. In order to reduce this noise, ask your hearing care provider to create a “car” program that will activate the noise reduction features in your hearing aids. That program will be accessed by pressing a button on the hearing aids, a remote control unit, or through the hearing aid app on your smartphone.
  • If you have a companion microphone, the input for that mircophone comes into the hearing aids as an independent hearing aid “program.” This means that the volume and quality of that sound can be adjusted without changing the settings in any of your other hearing aid programs. So be sure to give clear feedback to your hearing care provider about how the companion microphone is working in the car. That way, your provider can fine-tune it to meet your specific listening needs.

Environmental Tips:

  • The first way to modify your environment in the car is by choosing the seat that allows you to best see the other passengers. Most often this will be the passenger seat in the car. When we sit in the passenger seat, we can turn our head to see the driver’s face when he/she is speaking. We can even turn our body around slightly to see the passenger in the back seat behind the driver. If there is someone sitting in the back seat directly behind you, try flipping down the sun visor and looking in the mirror to see the passengers behind you.
  • The best way to improve communication in the car is to modify the environment. Turn off the radio during conversation. If possible, roll up the windows and turn the fan to low (or off if the temperature permits). If you have a choice, opt for the car with the quieter engine. Did you know? Some tires are quieter than others, so when it comes time for new tires, ask the sales person for a recommendation on tires with the least amount of road noise.

Now that you’re an expert in communicating in the car, you can feel confident going out on errands with friends and family. As always, be kind with yourself and patient. Getting used to hearing aids takes time and practice — you’ve got this! If you have any questions about your hearing aids or want to make an appointment, we’re here for you. We look forward to guiding you through your hearing health journey.

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