For those unfamiliar with the hard of hearing community, it could be challenging 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 therefore only communicate via sign language. While sign language may be an option with regards to 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.
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.
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 methods of communication include saying their name or gesturing to them to indicate you are attempting to converse. Lastly, if you are aware 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 enough 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.
3. Rephrasing – 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 manner that is difficult to misunderstand. For example, instead of saying, “I am going shopping.” Rephrase it by saying, “I am going to buy groceries.”
4. Don’t Obstruct Your Speech – This tip is simple. Keep your hands and any other object you can think of, away from your mouth when you are speaking to someone hard of hearing. Some people are unaware to what degree speech can be obstructed when something is blocking their mouth. Still, for someone who has issues hearing, it could become virtually impossible to decipher what’s being said.
5. Don’t Obstruct Your Face – This tip is equally as important as the one listed above. People dealing with hearing issues rely heavily on other ques to assist them in better understanding all elements of a conversation. Many listeners look at a speaker’s face for an array of reasons, such as to lip read, understand context based on facial expressions, and to detect someone’s level of engagement and truthfulness during a conversation.
6. Eye Contact – Eye contact is essential for effective communication. 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).
7. Find a Quiet Environment to Converse – When interacting with someone hard of hearing, it is essential to take note of your environment. If you are in an area that is too noisy, try and find a quieter setting to converse. Too much background noise can detract from effective conversations.
8. Patience – Being patient when speaking with someone dealing with hearing loss entails the expression of empathy. While it could be a bit frustrating to have to continuously alter your speech (i.e., rephrasing) to get your point across successfully, consider their feelings. 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.