It could be challenging for those unfamiliar with the hard of hearing community to find a competent and non-offensive way to communicate with individuals who belong to this group.
A common misconception when interacting with an individual who is hard of hearing is that they are deaf and only communicate via sign language. While sign language may be an option regarding communication, there are two issues with that assumption.
First, not every person who is hard of hearing uses sign language, and second, being hard of hearing is different from being deaf.
What Does it Mean to be Deaf?
The term “deaf” refers to an individual with minimal or no functional hearing.
What Does it Mean to be Hard of Hearing?
The term “hard of hearing” refers to an individual whose hearing loss ranges from mild to moderate.w
Ways to Communicate With a Person Who is Hard of Hearing
Communicating effectively with someone hard of hearing isn’t as difficult as you may think. Some of these tips could improve your overall ability to communicate with people in general.
And since the global pandemic, more people have come to terms with otherwise unknown hearing challenges, thanks to the use of face masks. These tips are essential to note when speaking to anyone during our ‘new normal’ of wearing face masks.
Some ways in which you could enhance your communication include:
1. Getting Their Attention
Depending on how well you know the individual, a light tap on the shoulder or side of the arm is a polite way to grab their attention.
Other, less intrusive communication methods include saying their name or gesturing to them to indicate you are attempting to converse. Lastly, if you know that their hearing is better in one ear, try speaking to them on that side.
2. Speak Clearly
Putting effort into pronouncing our words and speaking at a level sufficient to be heard by those who are hard of hearing could significantly enhance our ability to communicate.
The idea is centered around clarity. The focus shouldn’t be on speaking slowly or exaggerating words, as this could come off a bit condescending and end up distorting your words, which could lead to more confusion.
Consonants such as “s,” “t,” and “f” are typically the sounds we struggle with the most because they are higher frequency sounds. And since most hearing loss is classified as high-frequency hearing loss, then it’s understandable why so many of us often struggle to understand these words.
Many of us unknowingly speak in ways that can be deemed confusing to people outside our social circles. People who fit in this category tend to talk in slang and use different tones or other various sounds unfamiliar to those dealing with hearing loss.
When interacting with an individual who is hard of hearing, try to rephrase your questions or comments in a difficult way to misunderstand. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going shopping.” Rephrase it by saying, “I am going to buy groceries.”
4. Face the Person
It’s easy to look around and move directions when speaking to somebody, especially if you walk alongside them. But if a person is hard of hearing, this can make communication especially difficult. If you are walking, try to find a safe spot to stand and face them head-on.
This way, they can directly receive the sound of your voice without the interference of other nearby sounds. They can also pick up on essential visual cues such as lip-reading and facial expressions.
In usual circumstances, we would also suggest not obstructing your face or mouth; however, since the mask mandate still stands, we must adapt to the situation. To find out more about the communication challenges created by the pandemic and what you can do to make things easier for those around you, read our blog here.
5. Eye Contact
Eye contact is essential for effective communication with the hard of hearing. It informs the listener that you are in the conversation and helps them understand the emotions embedded within the interaction (i.e., happiness, frustration, excitement).
Being patient when communicating with someone dealing with hearing loss entails the expression of empathy.
While it could be a bit frustrating to continuously alter your speech (i.e., rephrasing) to get your point across successfully, empathize with their situation, and understand that this is a permanent challenge that they have to live with themselves.
They are trying just as hard as you to communicate, and the fact that they can’t hear you properly is probably equally as frustrating.
Try and put yourself in their position. How do you think it would feel to be hard of hearing? How would you want to be treated? Applying patience to your interactions will go along with those dealing with hearing loss.
If you or a person you love live with some degree of hearing loss and would like to know your options concerning high-quality hearing aids, visit Beltone Hearing to book an appointment at one of our many locations today.