A few posts ago I mentioned I would write down some helpful tips on how to make communication easier for both the hearing impaired and those with normal hearing. It is important to realise that effective communication is a two-way street and each party has to make a conscious effect to engage in a conversation.
No matter what type of hearing loss you have, whether mild, severe or profound, or even if you do not have a hearing loss, these tips can help you in your every day life.
For those speaking:
- Face the person you are talking to directly so that they can read your lips if necessary.
- If you are not facing the person or they are not aware of you speaking, try to draw their attention to you, this can be by tapping them on the shoulder for example. Many times I have had someone just suddenly appear at my shoulder talking to me and it has scared me as I wasn’t expecting them to be there.
- Do NOT over exaggerate your facial expressions or words as this can make things harder if attempting to read lips.
- Try to sit in a well-lit position as dark environments will make it a lot harder to lip read.
- If possible, try to avoid overly noisy environments, especially if you are in a large group as it will be hard to concentrate on all the different sounds.
- Try to resist the urge to shout, as mentioned before volume is often not the issue in these circumstances.
- Speak clearly, at a moderate pace. Too quickly and the hearing impaired individual may not be able to catch what you are saying, too slow there is a tendency to over exaggerate mouth movement which makes lip-reading harder.
- Do NOT hide your mouth as not only will sound be muffled, but it will make lip-reading impossible.
- A really important tip is to remember to speak to the hearing impaired person, not to another person. I cannot remember how many times I have been passed over conversation simply because the person speaking did not know how to help me understand them.
- If you are suddenly changing the direction of a conversation, perhaps let the hearing impaired individual know by saying one word that is relevant to the new conversation so that they are aware they need to adjust their train of thought.
For the Hearing Impaired to consider:
- Maintain a sense of humour, yes you will get words wrong sometimes but it can be a way of bringing you closer to the speaker rather than making you feel embarrassed – especially if the misheard word is a rude one!!
- Tell people what works for you – no one knows better than you how you pick up conversation.
- Anticipate and try to combat difficult environments – for example, if you are meeting friends for dinner, ask if you can choose the location – sit with your back to a wall rather than to a crowded restaurant as this will reduce the amount of noise coming from different directions – some people find places with carpets easier etc.
- Pay attention – I know this will sound really trivial and obvious but you will need to concentrate a lot harder on conversations than those with normal hearing
- Look for visual clues to help you.
- Try not to interrupt the speaker mid flow as you may find as the conversation progresses you can fill in the gaps yourself with what additional information you were able to pick up.
- However, if you are really struggling, then do not be afraid to interrupt and ask the speaker to repeat themselves.
- Carry a pen and paper, if you are unable to follow a conversation, possibly ask if they could write it down.
I hope these hints and tips are useful, some may appear to be very obvious but the way we converse with each other is often something that we do not consciously think about, it is just something natural that we do. Hopefully by keeping some of these suggestions in mind, it might make conversations more natural for those with the hearing impairment