Think Hearing Loss is a ‘harmless’ disability? Think again.
Hearing Loss in its varying degrees can affect individuals in different ways. Many people do not realise the effects that hearing loss can have on everyday life and a personals emotional state, unfortunately it is still very much seen as an invisible disability.
For some people hearing loss can severely hamper their ability to form and maintain relationships. It has been proven that those with a severe hearing loss can also be prone to develop:
- Further health conditions
- Balance difficulties
Think of these everyday situations and how you approach them, and then think about how you would feel and how you would approach these situations if you had a severe or total hearing loss ;
- Socialising in a busy/crowded place
- Crossing the road
- Meeting and talking to strangers
- Walking home in the dark/at night time
- Speaking on the telephone
- Large meetings in the workplace
- Travelling to a new destination
- Attending A&E in an emergency / general medical issues.
With over 11 million people in the UK suffering from some form of hearing loss, whether mild, moderate or profound, it is time to educate ourselves on what we can do to make sure these individuals are not suffering in silence.
Here are a few communication/practical tips for social and professional situations that may help the hearing impaired individual feel more relaxed and included;
- Face the person you are speaking to
- Make sure you are in a well-lit environment
- Do not over exaggerate facial expressions
- Do not cover your mouth
- Do not get exasperated if they have to ask you to repeat your sentence multiple times
- Use text or email to set up meetings if they find the telephone too hard
- Choose places with them in mind, a quiet restaurant or café instead of a pub with a live band for example.
- Where possible, arrange smaller group outings (3 or 4 people for example) as sometimes larger crowds are harder to interact with.
- Ensure they have the necessary equipment they need (via Access to Work) i.e. text phone etc for them to be able to carry out their day to day roles.
- If their presence is required in a meeting, provide handouts of agenda/presentation before the meeting so they can familiarise themselves with the topics of discussion beforehand.
- Make sure your employees/colleagues are deaf aware, provide some informal training if needed.
- Ensure that their workstations are ideally situated for them to interact easier – i.e. desk facing towards the office and back to the wall (this helps to cut out unnecessary background noise) and facing their colleagues.
- Review your company policies in regards to security and safety – especially in case of emergencies such as fires. Many companies adopt a “buddy” system for emergencies.
- Consider whether other communication methods can be adopted i.e. emails if the telephone is difficult.