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Communication Strategies: Listening in a Group Setting

Let’s face it, communicating in a group can be hard regardless of how well you can hear. And listening in a group setting can be extra challenging for those who have difficulty hearing. Of course, it also depends on the size of the group and where you are. If you’re in a quiet room with a small group, listening in a group setting is easy! But if you’re with a large group in a noisy restaurant, things get a little tougher. No matter the size or location, we’ve got some strategies to share that we’re sure will be of help!

Hear, hear!

When out in a group:
For starters, position yourself in the middle of the group. You want to be extra attentive and to really practice those active listening skills. When listening in a group setting, or any setting really, watch the speaker’s mouth, facial expressions, and hand gestures. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask the speaker for clarification if you’ve missed part of what was said. Most importantly, avoid that pesky word we so easily revert to, “What?”. Instead, repeat back what you think you’ve heard and ask if that was right.

Practice, practice more, and practice again:
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: practice really does make perfect, especially in this situation. The more times you can put yourself into a group of people, the better you’ll be at listening in a group setting. Be honest with your companions, and let them know if they need to speak louder for you. Notice how much communication occurs non-verbally. The speaker’s lip movements, facial expressions, and hand gestures will fill in the gaps that your hearing loss may have created. Use your eyes as much as you can.

Speaking up!

For the speakers in your life:
Be sure to tell your friends, the speakers, that it is often difficult for someone with hearing loss to follow changes in the topic of conversation. Explain to them that when listening in a group setting, it might take a moment longer to process what has been said because your hearing loss didn’t allow you to hear everything, or you may have missed the topic change all together. The more your speaker friends know, the better they’ll do at communicating effectively to make sure you’re always in the loop.

As a speaker, when speaking in a group of people, let your listeners know of any changes in the topic of conversation. This can be as simple as “Remember the movie we saw last week?” It will take practice to get into this habit, but it really makes a difference for listeners with hearing loss.  

Set up the ideal environment

OK, we already know that it’s really important for the listener to be able to see the face of the speaker. In fact, a huge part of any communication exchange is received through visual cues, so this cannot be understated. Making sure you’re set up with proper seating and sufficient lighting are important environmental modifications that should be made in every group situation. 

Each time you are out with a group, take a look around to assess your surroundings to see how it can be improved so you can see the speakers more clearly.
– Will it be better if you sit in the middle of the group or at the end of the table?
– Do you need an extra light turned on to make it easier for you to see faces?
– Can you choose a round table rather than a rectangular table?

And of course, make a point to sit next to the person you know you’ll want to interact with the most during your time there.

Don’t forget to check out all our posts on Communication Strategies!

Watching TV with hearing loss
Hearing while dining out
Hearing while on the phone
Communicating in the car
Hearing at Public Events
Listening at home

As always, if you need more help with hearing or speaking tips, or assistance with your hearing aids, we’re only a phone call away! And if you have any helpful tips we haven’t mentioned yet, we’d love to hear about them too! We wish you luck on your hearing health journey!

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