What in the World is Conversation Therapy?

For the next week in this blog, I’ll be exploring conversation therapy.

What is conversation therapy, anyway? If you ask anyone in the hearing care field, they probably won’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve only seen one reference to conversation therapy, by Dr. Christopher Lind at Flinders University in Australia. When I read his article, I thought, wow, what a perfect term to describe what people are doing in programs like Hearing Help and Living with a Hearing Loss.

Photo credit:  Monkey Business Images


Conversation therapy looks at how people behave in conversations, and how we can respond effectively to “issues” that arise.

Here’s an example. Let’s say we’re in conversation with a person who mumbles. If we repeatedly can’t understand someone, we might pretend to understand. This is what happened in the “Puffy Shirt” episode of Seinfeld.

In conversation therapy, we discuss this reality. We could come up with some ‘rules’ about dealing with mumblers. One rule is to try to repair the misunderstanding as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the harder it gets. “The Puffy Shirt” is a perfect example of that.

Another rule might be to avoid sounding apologetic if you ask someone to repeat. Constantly apologizing changes the dynamics of a conversation—and can lead to a perception that you have something to apologize for. If you’re always saying “sorry,” people start to treat you like you’ve done something wrong.

Conversation therapy classes are often combined with lipreading instruction.

In my next post on this blog series, I’ll talk about why we need conversation therapy.

  • Photo credit:  © Alan Fortune

    Sandra Vandenhoff

    Dr. Sandra Vandenhoff is an audiologist with hearing loss, founder of HEARa, Hearing Strategies coach, speaker, and Canadian author, who gave her GPS away long before realizing that it was a good brain-boosting move.

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