Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Is It A Case Of Not Listening Or Not Hearing?"

We live in a very noisy world. There are so many sounds going on around us - sirens, airplanes, cars, trucks, vehicle horns, radio, TV, music, appliances, fans, blowers, air conditioners, power tools, and so much more. In fact there is so much going on that we may adapt by tuning out some of it.

We may find that we have conditioned ourselves to the noise going on around us to the point where we hardly notice it. If we go someplace else and return, we can tell the difference, but we can get used to being surrounded by the same types of noises all the time.

Knowing that there is nearly a constant barrage of noise of various sources going on around us - unless we isolate ourselves in a very quiet room or go to the lake, mountains, or other relatively remote area - means that we listen less acutely to what is going on around us. This is not particularly good because listening, like seeing, is one of the ways we stay informed about our world.

We know that listening is of paramount importance in building relationships and in making sales. Selling after all is done best when there is a relationship established. Listening is at the heart of it.

Sometimes poor listening comes from a lack of or lapse of focus about what the other person is saying. We don't listen intently enough to hear what is being said to us from a relatively close distance. We get distracted thinking of something else while we should be concentrating on what is being said to us, we allow outside noises to partially drown out or mask what is being said, or we think more about our next question or how we want the discussion to go,

The result is that there is poor communication because we listened ineffectively. We asked people to repeat themselves unnecessarily because we weren't paying attention. We missed some important elements of the conversation and weren't even aware that this had happened. We pretended to hear and understand what was being said, but we weren't paying close enough attention to the conversation.

Hearing loss is a very common sensory impairment. It gets more prevalent with age. We are told that about one person in ten suffers from some type of hearing loss, and that this number rises to one-in-three over the age of 65. That makes communicating with an older aging-in-place client more challenging.

The issue of verbal communication is twofold. One is the client, and the other is us. Because the client may be dealing with a decreased ability to hear - one that perhaps they aren't aware of or one that they are trying to conceal from us and others - it is more challenging to have a meaningful conversation with them about their needs and perceptions. Do they actually understand what we are saying, do they hear us clearly, or are they just pretending to hear and are responding with what they think is appropriate?

For our part, we must be focused on intently participating in the conversation and listening particularly hard for what they are telling us - understanding that we may have to deal with ambient and outside noises, that they maybe don't hear everything we say, and that we have the higher responsibility as professionals for listening to what is being said and not just hearing it or knowing that something was said without understanding what it was.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.