Eighteen years ago, I read an article entitled, “Reminding Them When They Forget”, an article co-authored by Sam Trychin. Dr. Trychin is a psychologist and educator, and has an online self-management program for hearing loss. This article has stayed with me for all of these years, because it’s practical. I’ll give you a short recap here.
It’s a fact of life—for people with hearing loss that is—that other people forget. They forget that you have hearing loss, and they forget to communicate in ways that make it easier for you to understand. This even applies to the people that you work and live with on a daily basis.
If you react by thinking that they forget because they don’t care, or they are too busy to make time for you, this is self-defeating and usually wrong. It also creates unnecessary bad feelings and can lead to a damaged relationship.
Since it is simply a fact that people forget, it is in your best interest to accept that and think about ways to remind them.
It is not a bad idea to prepare people by informing them that you expect them to forget and that you will remind them when they do.
How you remind people can determine whether they are willing to comply or whether they want to stop conversing with you.
If you express anger, irritation, or frustration, people are less likely to want to continue the conversation. Their energy will be focused on defending themselves rather than on communicating with you. Be careful of your tone and body language. This is not easy when you are feeling frustrated or irritated.
Accepting the idea that people forget because they are human can help. Keep in mind that you are a teacher in this situation—you are teaching others how to best communicate with you.
Polite requests are effective. If you say, “I’d appreciate it if you would…” others will comply about 90% of the time. Be polite and encouraging when you are asking people to change their behavior for you. (This can be hardest to do with those closest to us.)
One method for reminding people when they forget is hand signals. A hand with the palm turned upward and moving in the upward direction can serve as a reminder to speak louder. Tapping your ear with your finger can remind the person about your hearing loss. Beckoning a person to come closer with your hand or forefinger can remind them to step closer so you can hear them.
In one of Dr. Trychin’s seminars, he was talking too fast for one woman. (This often happens when people get nervous or excited.) She took a ping pong paddle and attached paper to each side. On one side she wrote, “Please slow down.” On the other side she wrote, “Thank you.” According to Dr. Trychin, it was very effective.
The use of hand signals helps people who have hearing loss to remind others about what to do in a relatively unobtrusive way. It’s much easier than interrupting someone verbally.
Also, developing signals like this provides the opportunity to use your creative powers to improve communication. You are taking an active role. This is the opposite of giving up.
Related post: May the Wind be Always at Your Back