You can be a Good Communicator

The Transcript

Dale Johnson: Welcome to the Conversation Starts Here on KFOR FM 103.3, 1240 AM. This is Dale Johnson. Dr. Sandra Miller is by my side from Complete Hearing in Lincoln. In the communication business, both of us are.

Dr. Miller: We are.

Dale Johnson: I am communicating as a speaker and, you, to a large extent are a communicator listening to what people have to say. Fair to say?

Dr. Miller: Absolutely fair to say.

Dale Johnson: All right. We’re going to talk about those two sides of communicating, being a good listener and being a good communicator. Now there are times in the family dynamic where I’m accused of not being a good communicator, maybe that’s just a guy thing as opposed to a hearing thing.

Dr. Miller: Yeah. We tell our patients whether you have hearing loss or don’t have hearing loss, we tend to not be good communicators for I think the fact that we are so busy involved in life, and we aren’t taking the time anymore to slow down and have good conversation with each other and having polite conversation. We’re too busy on our phone or we’re too busy with the hundred other things that we have going on. That meaningful conversation really takes place face to face.

Dr. Miller: And so a lot of times when we talk about being a good communicator, we have some strategies that we give to our patients. So there’s the process of talking about where people struggle, and that can be as a normal hearing listener or somebody who does have some hearing loss, but it can also be once we fit devices, if that’s needed, that we talk about the strategies of how to communicate well. It goes far beyond just bringing hearing back but also what does it mean to be a good communicator?

Dr. Miller: So I think the major thing that I tell my patients is a lot of times louder is not necessarily better. Louder can become more distorted for some people. And the big thing I tell my patients is to make sure that when you’re communicating with someone is to speak slower. As we age, our brain slows down and we require much better information. So whether you’re communicating with anyone, really rapid speech is not going to help any time. So when you think about we get excited, I’m very guilty of this, I’m a very fast talker, believe it or not, so a lot of times during my day I have to very purposefully slow myself down, because even when people have hearing loss or as we age that our brain slows down, slower speech is just easier to understand.

Dale Johnson: Excitement also generates volume.

Dr. Miller: It does. Yes. And so I think that keeping volume at a really normal level, but speaking slower, that’s the most important thing is just articulation and making sure that we’re not over articulating with our movements of our mouth and making sure that we just slow down is a really big one.

Dr. Miller: And face to face, we’ve talked about that before. You get over half of what you hear from what you see. So that’s why you find when you’re obstructed or you can’t see the person talking, that might be when you’re watching television and they don’t show the speaker or they throw some background noise in the environment, that’s why it’s more difficult. You use not just your ears and your brain to hear, you use your vision as well. So I think face to face is what we always talk about.

Dr. Miller: And sometimes when you’re communicating and you’re getting that look on that person’s face like they have no idea what you’re talking about, a common question we say, does that make sense, do you have any questions? We cover a ton of information when we see our patients and so I know that they’re going to retain 10, 20% of what I say. So sometimes I might even stop and just say, “If you remember nothing from our conversation today, what I need you to know is these three things.” And so being that way, just knowing at some point in time we just can’t absorb it anymore.

Dale Johnson: It’s almost the pattern that goes into giving a good speech.

Dr. Miller: Yes.

Dale Johnson: You set it up, you deliver, and then you go back and reiterate what you just said.

Dr. Miller: Exactly. Because you think about what you try to remember, what’s important, what are the high points, for sure you have to make sure that that’s… yeah, that’s a really good analogy. I think that’s great. I think we have to be patient. We are not patient when it comes to communication, and so when it comes to huh, you know it’s huh, or the patient just has to be… My message didn’t get delivered right the first time. My best recommendation for you I would have is just rephrase.

Dr. Miller: My mom has dementia and so when I talk to her sometimes she doesn’t quite understand what I’m saying. So I simplify it down to a more simplified form using words she may understand better or keeping it simplifying my message to her, and so it seems to help. And then also to just be empathetic to the fact that that person may have not have heard you correctly. Our natural tendency is to go, “Huh?”, because we don’t want to take the time to go, “Oh, you mean Jimmy’s getting married on Friday?” Like to reiterate what you heard, that person who’s communicating with you will be much more likely to reiterate back, “Oh yeah, Jimmy is getting married on Friday.” So if you can just think about how to be a good communicator means back and forth conversation for sure.

Dale Johnson: What we are working on in our house is to eliminate the repetitiveness of a conversation, and the way we are doing that is for example, don’t communicate while you’re lifting the pots and pans out of a drawer. Don’t communicate when you open this squeaky bi-fold door to the coat closet. Don’t communicate as your back is to me and the faucet is running in the kitchen.

Dr. Miller: Right.

Dale Johnson: So those are the physicalities of communication that we are working on and other people can work on too.

Dr. Miller: Yeah. I think the major thing is that to be a good communicator you have to be intentional and we are oftentimes so wrapped into so many other things that we are not being intentional and we’d have a lot less frustration with communication if we would just take the time to do it right, I think. And so a lot of times my husband says the same thing to me. He goes, “You practice this every day at work,” and then sometimes I get home and then I’m mentally exhausted because during the day… I always say, “I’ve talked like this all day long,” and for me to talk loud and slow, it takes a lot of energy and takes a lot of concentration because I’m trying to be a very purposeful communicator and it takes energy and we’re lazy communicators. We just really are. And we forget.

Dale Johnson: We have a lot in common because when I go home, I don’t project the way I project speech at work into a microphone.

Dr. Miller: Right.

Dale Johnson: So let’s circle around to what you do for a living. How does what we’re talking about here apply to someone who might be questioning their hearing?

Dr. Miller: Well I think it’s really important to know that a lot of times when we’re not communicating effectively, people say, “Well the TV’s louder,” or, “I just tend to withdraw because this is happening,” or, “I tend to feel like we’re having arguments at home because there’s just this communication that’s not happening.” So ruling out hearing loss is a really important thing. You can be a really good or really bad communicator with or without hearing loss, but if it’s something that hearing loss is involved with, then you want to think about that just compounds the factor, right? So now you have to think about not only do I have to be intentional with my communication, but now I have to think about the fact that that person doesn’t even hear very well, so these becomes so much more important.

Dr. Miller: So when we talk about remedy and what do we do with this, not only is it giving the person the best potential to hear well, but then how do we use these strategies in those situations to have good communication. So I think it’s so important, and we’ve talked about this before, that your hearing is like any other sense that you have. Your teeth, you go to the dentist, your vision, you go to the optometrist. Just thinking about the overall impact that that has and people just don’t realize it. And then when it becomes a frustration level at home that we’re not communicating effectively, you have to ask yourself, is it because we’re ignoring each other or is there a hearing loss issue that needs to be identified?

Dale Johnson: Yeah. So there gets a point at home when you don’t speak with the pots and pans coming out, you’ve turned around now and shut the faucet off and that now is not working as often as it should, go in for a hearing test.

Dr. Miller: Yeah. I think it’s really important.

Dale Johnson:  Just a simple hearing test.

Dr. Miller: Just a simple hearing test. I have to tell you we are going to be at the Nebraska Boat and Sports Show this weekend, please stop by our booth if you’re to be coming out. It’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and we are offering free screenings and so if you’re just curious as to be like where am I even at with this? Is this something I should do? You can sign up for a free screening. We don’t do them at the pavilion because it’s a little bit loud out there, but you sign up and you come into the office, and we can just give you a pass fail test. This is something you need to have checked out. I think it’s important, it’s just like anything else. Know where you are.

Dr. Miller: The comment we always get at our booth at many trade shows we go to is, “Well, I’m fine.” And I always say, “Well, how do you know that? What does fine mean to you?” Oh, I’m fine. I can get by. I think that’s not the way I want to go through life. I don’t want to just get by, but at least you have some knowledge. Knowledge is power and so if you can say, “You know, I had it evaluated and this is where I’m at,” it’s a nice baseline to have to move forward in life with. I think it’s a really important thing to do.

Dale Johnson: Plus you’re really good, Dr. Miller. When a person does become a patient, and even before they become a patient, you counsel them through the entire process. You help educate, you’re in the education business.

Dr. Miller: Right.

Dale Johnson: You are a hearing teacher.

Dr. Miller: Exactly. We talk so much about that. Our vision definitely at Complete Hearing is we don’t just sell hearing aids, that’s not what we’re about. That’s a part of our solution. But we talk so much about the education piece of how important this is for your overall health, your wellbeing, making sure you’re engaged. What does that mean? The device to help you get there, if you do need it, is definitely a part of this, but we want to make sure you know about how everything’s tied together and how to communicate with your loved ones and how the relationship that you have with other people is completely tied to how well you can hear.

Dale Johnson: Because fair to say people will walk in with a preconceived expectation.

Dr. Miller: Oh that’s so true.

Dale Johnson: Of what their hearing device will provide them.

Dr. Miller: Exactly. You and I were talking before the show that when we come in in a few weeks we’re going to talk about like what does it sound like to even have hearing loss? Because some people don’t know. What does it sound like when we put a hearing aid on a person’s ear? There’s a fear of two things. I don’t want to appear old. I would tell you our patients are much younger now, so this is not an age thing at all anymore. You need to be hearing well so you can be fully engaged in life and that happens at every single age possible. Just because you have hearing loss doesn’t mean you’re broken. It’s just like when you have vision loss and you wear some glasses. If you can’t hear well, you put a device on to hear well. We’ve talked about how great technology is today and we can go into a whole conversation about that. But yeah, we just want to make sure everybody’s educated, making sure that if there’s any myths out there that they have questions about, we want to be able to answer that for them.

Dale Johnson: And the first place to go, other than listen to Dr. Miller and myself every Saturday morning, is, and the podcast is there too.

Dr. Miller: Yes.

Dale Johnson:  You can hear this conversation. You can hear the very first conversation you and I ever had to start the show, correct?

Dr. Miller: It’s amazing. It is. And not only do we have it on our website in terms of audio, but it is also there for script as well, so you can read it.

Dale Johnson: All right. The Conversation Starts Here is the show on KFOR 1240 and 103.3 FM, Saturday mornings with Dr. Sandra Miller from Complete Hearing. Talk to you next week.