HINTS for talking to a person with HEARING IMPAIRMENT
– ONE-TO-ONE is much easier than groups
– AVOID BACKGROUND NOISE. It helps if we turn off the music and I have my back to the noisiest part of the room.
– GOOD LIGHTING ON YOUR FACE. Don’t sit with your back to the light. And don’t cover your face in any way. I needs visual cues and clues.
– GET MY ATTENTION BEFORE SPEAKING. If I miss the beginning it’s extra hard to catch up.
– SPEAK MORE SLOWLY. Then my poor brain has a chance!
– SPEAK CLEARLY – DON’T SHOUT OR WHISPER. Both lead to distorted sounds.
– KIDS BE LOUD AND BOLD! Young people are hard to hear because their voices are lighter and higher pitched.
– BEST IF WE AREN’T EATING. I can’t hear you if I’m chewing and I can’t hear you if you’re chewing! We should be able to get in a few words between mouthfuls.
– CHECK THAT I’M KEEPING UP. Jokes are hard because the teller’s voice changes, the conversation speeds up and everyone laughs. I love it when someone checks if I got it.
– REPEAT OR REPHRASE IF NECESSARY. Names are especially difficult because there’s no context so I can’t guess. Spelling them out can help.
– USE MIME AND HAND GESTURES. Go on, it can be fun!
– ONE CONVERSATION AT A TIME. In group situations or meetings I’m lost if people start to talk over the top of each other.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LOSE (SOME) HEARING
– it’s tiring! I have to concentrate much harder. I work overtime to filter out the background and to make sense of sounds that are distorted or barely audible. A lot of it is guesswork and that depends on context. But conversations may jump all over the place.
– it’s like being in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, you work hard and depend on all sorts of non-verbal cues
– hearing aids make conversation possible but they don’t restore the original clarity. The quality of sound is not as good. They whistle and are tinny. And the background noise is amplified, which can be overwhelming.
– my deafness is the sort that means the loss of higher frequencies. That makes many consonants hard to hear, which can mean that I’ve got the shape of the word but have to guess which version I need – pair? bear? mare? wear? dare?
– accents unlike my own are difficult. I know it can look like intolerance. But the intonation and stresses and vowel sounds are all different. The above hints help.
– it’s hard to jump in when I’m not completely sure what the conversation is about or what’s already been said. Will I sound stupid and/or inappropriate? I keep quiet more often than I used to, or withdraw, especially from noisy situations like parties.
As with every challenge, cheerful allies make all the difference. So THANK YOU!