Hearing Link

Speaking clearly to someone with hearing loss

Hearing loss is the second largest disability, and an invisible one. Not only are there a lot of deaf and hard of hearing people about, but you cannot tell who they are.

Someone with a hearing loss is not ignoring you and is not stupid. Their ears do not work but the rest of them – politeness, intelligence and so forth – is fine. Hearing loss is not something to joke about, to laugh at, to get irritated by, to use as an insult, or to feel sorry for.

What someone with hearing loss needs is courtesy, consideration and communication. Treat someone with a hearing loss as you yourself like to be treated.

When a person speaks, clues are gained not only from what is heard but also from what is seen. These clues complement and supplement each other, helping us to follow a conversation. For people with hearing loss the visual clues of speech become very important. Simple actions on your part, as the hearing person, may determine the ease with which these visual clues can be followed.

Communicating with people who have hearing loss

Thanks to What You Need To Know

Top tips for good communication

Simple things you can do to enhance communication between you and someone who has a hearing impairment.

Attract attention

  • Attract the attention of the person with hearing loss before you start talking to them, so that they can catch the beginning of what is said and not just the ending.
  • Avoid speaking from another room, or with your head in a cupboard/newspaper/book.
  • Keep your face visible and ensure the room is well lit. Try to avoid conversation in the kitchen where there are background noises from food mixers, washing machines and dishwashers etc.
  • Keep your head fairly still when speaking.

Use expression and gesture

  • Use natural hand gestures but do not exaggerate. Unnecessary hand movements can be very distracting.
  • Do not shout – speak clearly and not too fast. Shouting and over-mouthing words will alter the lip pattern, and speaking too slowly will destroy the natural rhythm of speech.
  • Try to make the subject of the conversation as clear as possible.
  • Try to use full sentences rather than just short phrases as they are easier to understand.
  • For a hearing impaired person it is important to see the speaker’s eyes to gauge how they are feeling. Therefore, if you are wearing sunglasses, remove these while speaking.

Repeat or rephrase

  • Repeat the sentence again if necessary and then perhaps rephrase what you want to say. You may not be aware of this, but some words are more difficult to lipread than others. For example, the month of March is easier to lipread than August. In the word March the shapes making ‘M’ and ‘CH’ are visible on the lips, the components in August are made inside the mouth, so there is nothing to see.
  • Give the person time to process what you have said – do not walk away until you have some indication that the message has been understood.
  • Write down any important facts.
  • Above all, be patient.

On the phone

When you’re calling someone with hearing loss, using a good phone technique will help them hear as much as possible. Make sure you speak directly into the phone’s mouthpiece (but don’t hold it too close), and remove as much background noise as you can.

Ahmed’s 15 unhelpful things people say to deaf people

Ahmed Khalifa says, ‘Throughout my life, I’ve heard a variety of comments and crazy things that people say to deaf people. Even though I’m partially deaf, I get them too. Being hard of hearing is a pain, but as part of Deaf Awareness Week, I thought of doing a video about it, and what you should know if you ever meet me and others who are in similar situations. So I thought of putting this video together to give you an idea of what not to say. Asking questions and understanding it is fine. But saying ridiculous things like “do you need Braille?” is not.’

For more videos about hearing loss from Ahmed, visit his youtube channel.

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