Being able to participate in the Living Well with Hearing Loss class at St. Luke’s Home was a great learning experience. As a first year audiology student, I found the class at St. Luke’s to be a valuable learning experience for me and the group participants. At the first class I realized that many of the individuals were not surrounded by their families on a day-to-day basis. Instead they are surrounded by many different people in a congested environment. I began to think about who their communication partners are and what needs they might have. During the weekly classes, I observed the interactions between the student clinicians and and the group participants. I realized that they were having communication breakdowns in their dinning area with different communication partners.
At each Living Well with Hearing Loss class, the participants expressed their communication difficulties, whether that affected their social time, or if it made them feel left out. Most of the participants emphasized that they face communication breakdowns often and did not try to fix the conversation. The participants said they can not understand the conversation message because the other residents do not “talk clear.”
During the first class, the student clinicians talked about and demonstrated communication strategies to improve communication and minimize communication breakdowns. The participants realized the importance of using communication strategies such as clarifying, getting the person’s attention, or facing the communication partner.
In subsequent classes, many of the participants utilized communication strategies and noticed some improvement. Although they showed improvement, they still noticed that the background noise was an issue causing them hearing difficulty when participating in conversations. The participants seemed to like talking about their communication difficulties and working through ways to prevent a conversation breakdown from happening again.
After working with these individuals at St. Luke’s I gained a new insight on hearing loss and communication. I realized that it can be frustrating for each individual because they communicate with different people daily and do not have a steady communication partner, which can make it hard for them to use their communication strategies. Additionally, a lot of the participants expressed the frustration about trying to understand each other around the dinner table. Instead of working through these issues they stated that “they just end up sitting and not taking part in the conversation.” This made me wonder if some of the individuals become depressed because they are not getting any social interaction and may become excluded from the group.
Overall, Living Well with Hearing Loss at St. Luke’s was beneficial to the participants because they were able to let out their frustrations with communication. I think that discussing communication strategies helped the group participants realize where they can improve their involvement in a conversation. I think simple changes to St. Luke’s Home such as adding tennis balls to the bottoms of the chairs, adding carpet/rugs around the dinning area will cut down on the background noise that the group was complaining about. Additionally, St. Luke could add an FM system at each of the dining tables so that each individual can hear the conversation at a louder level with a decreased level in background noise. Each individual needs day-to-day communication to maintain their social health. The utilization of communication strategies and practice with others will lead to future successful conversations.