Difficult Listening Situations

The first steps to listening well are:

  1. a well-programmed hearing aid or Baha and/or well-MAPped cochlear implant(s)

  2. therapy (auditory training, aural (re)habilitation, Auditory-Verbal Therapy) from a qualified profressional

  3. practice, practice, practice


Without a good foundation, the following tips will be like bailing out a sinking ship with a thimble.  But with the right preparation and good basic listening skills, these tips and tricks may help your comprehension in some of the most challenging listening situations:


  • When booking a table at a restaurant, request a booth and position yourself with your back to the wall.  That way, noises are only coming at your from three sides, as it were, and there isn’t any distracting noise coming at you from behind.  Request a table away from the kitchen, the entrance, the bar, or any other large, loud parties.  Ask your dining companions to speak one at a time and to finish chewing before they begin to talk.


  • Establish the topic of conversation to help narrow down your options and to help yourself make educated guesses to fill in the blanks when you miss a word.  If you know the topic is your friend’s recent job interview, you’ll know to listen for words like “resume, boss, hire, salary” to which you may not have been attuned in regular speech.


  • Make your needs known — ask conversation partners to speak one at a time in large groups and not to talk over one another or interrupt.


  • Sit in a circle and position yourself so that your “best” ear, if you have one, is facing the speaker.


  • Ask for an outline or agenda or copy of the powerpoint when you go to meetings or presentations.  If in school, request a notetaker.  If at work, ask the secretary or minute-keeper if you can sit next to him and peek over his shoulder to see notes on the proceedings.  Ask for the minutes after meetings to fill in anything you might have missed.


  • If you have an FM or soundfield system, or if the presentation space has a microphone — request that the speaker(s) use it!


  • Consider breaking into small groups for brainstorming sessions, then have one representative from each group present a summary to the entire meeting.  Take your small group out to the hall or another quiet room to avoid the noise of many groups talking at once.


  • Ask for background music to be lowered or turned off completely.


  • Move your conversation away from vents, fans, or noisy machinery.


  • Request to meet in carpeted rooms with closed doors rather than large, tiled spaces which have lots of reverberating sound.


  • Learn and use good repair strategies to avoid confusion or missed information (requesting clarification, repetition, etc.)


  • No bluffing!  Speak up when you don’t understand to avoid embarrassment or costly misunderstandings.


  • Take it easy on yourself — remember that even people with typical hearing struggle in noisy, chaotic listening situations.

One thought on “Difficult Listening Situations

  1. Hi Elizabeth. Great article! Thank you for writing this! I just wanted to add a correction to one point. Actually, for any person wearing directional microphone technology (two microphone ports), the better position for them to be is FACING the wall. That way, speech is facing the microphones directly (which gets picked up), and the noise is coming from the back and the sides (which gets reduced). This is rather an important variable for speech in noise understanding with cochlear implant technology. Place all your conversational partners in front of you, or on the side of the CI. And make sure that the person wearing the technology is facing a wall, preferably a brick wall (that absorbs the noise) as opposed to a coverless window (which bounces off noise vibrations (unless there are curtains or blinds covering them which then absorbs the noise). Hope this helps!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: