One of the most frustrating things about hearing loss is missing out on conversation. Being told “nevermind” is one of the interactions hard of hearing people have that can cause them to withdraw socially – imagine being dismissed out-of-hand, and made to feel like your comprehension of the conversation isn’t worth the effort of simply repeating yourself? My daughter, who has unilateral (single-sided) hearing loss says, “When I ask someone to repeat themselves and they tell me “nevermind” it hurts. It makes me feel like making sure I understand what’s been said isn’t worth their effort.” Getting left out stinks. The hard of hearing community has so many wonderful perspectives to offer, so don’t miss out! Here are tips for communicating with hard of hearing people in a way that’s inclusive, feels natural, and quells the awkward.
Tips for Communicating with Hard of Hearing People
- You don’t have to yell. In fact, that can make it harder to be understood. Speak clearly, but your volume need not increase.
- Face the person and make eye contact when speaking
- No need to engage in facial aerobics, either. Don’t overemphasize your facial expressions or lip movements – that can actually decrease effective communication.
- Avoid excess background noise – this is a tough one! Restaurants and other public spaces can be very noisy. Seek out locations that are on the quieter side when you can. There are apps that can help – I found one called Soundprint. With this app, you can measure the decibel level in a restaurant or other venue, and the app submits the reading to a database. Users can then seek out places that are more conducive to conversation.
- Technology can be your friend! Type back and forth on a screen, or write on a pad. (Legible handwriting is helpful here.)
- Be patient.
- If you need to get their attention, move into their visual field or simply tap them on the shoulder.
- Ask! It’s perfectly ok to ask a deaf or hard of hearing person how best to communicate with them. In fact, they prefer you ask.
- In groups, we all tend to get excited and talk at once – this can make it very difficult for a hard of hearing person. Try not to interrupt.
- And this is basic manners, but it bears a reminder – don’t speak with your mouth full.
When we take the time to build bridges of communication with our family, friends, and community members who are hard of hearing, we gain such wonderful opportunities to learn and grow ourselves. Be patient, be helpful, be kind, and be inclusive, and communicating with hard of hearing people will become second nature!
Hearing Resources Audiology Center offers comprehensive hearing care for adults and children in Portland, Oregon. We’re ready to help you reconnect with your world. Contact us today!