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Tips for Communicating with the Deaf or Hard of Hearing

a family sharing laughter over dinner

For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, communication can be challenging in certain sound environments. The good news is that you can make it easier for men and women that experience hearing loss by taking note of the following.

These are top tips that will make communicating more straightforward and less stressful.

Don’t turn your back

When you speak to those who aren’t hard of hearing, you never analyze your body position. Instead, you talk over your shoulder or to their back and increase the volume if there are any issues. Deaf and people who regularly deal with hearing loss find it difficult to communicate this way as lots of them rely on lip-reading to understand the context of the conversation.

Therefore, it’s essential not to turn your back and to face them. That way, following your lips and the conversation, is a lot easier.

Talk normally

If you’re not used to speaking to someone who has hearing loss, then you might find it disconcerting at first. Do you speak louder? Should you slow down to make it easier from a lip-reading perspective? The answer is no and no. Changing your speech patterns distorts deaf people’s lip-reading abilities as your lips produce different shapes. As a result, it’s always wise to talk as you would typically – alterations only add to the problem.

That means don’t mumble, shout, exaggerate or do anything out of the ordinary.

Maintain an even distance

It’s tempting to assume that standing closer to a person who uses a hearing aid is better for them as there’s less space for the sound to travel. As a hearing instrument specialist, it’s a myth that we’re happy to dispel for the sake of anyone who experiences hearing loss. In reality, maintaining your distance makes the sound clearer from a hearing perspective as it allows the telecoil and microphone to pick up the vibrations. Regarding lip-reading, standing too close or too far away impacts a deaf person’s ability to see clearly.

As a rule, there’s no need to stand closer or further away than 12-16 inches.

Consider the conditions

Hearing instrument specialists know that the slightest sound can be distracting, especially if hearing loss is mild or severe. So, factoring in the conditions of the conversation is something that you must do to ensure there are fewer issues. Start by moving away from any background noise, even if you don’t think it’s very loud. It is to someone with a hearing aid as the microphone in their device is sensitive and picks up low sounds. If moving away isn’t possible, consider turning the volume down or off altogether. This might include switching off devices that buzz or hum.

Lighting is another consideration. Bright lights will affect their sight and focus, impeding their ability to read lips or sign. So, it is important to use ambient lighting as it’s softer and less distracting.

Rephrase the question

Sometimes, a combination of how you form a word and the rarity of it is enough to confuse the hard of hearing. However, there’s no reason to quit because your statement or question wasn’t picked up initially. If you don’t succeed, try again, and you can do that by rephrasing the sentence to make it less confusing. All it takes is a couple of seconds and the conversation could be back on track and flowing again.

Where possible, try and use the simplest variation of the word to avoid complicated grammar and syntax.

Speak in rotation

One-on-one interactions are more straightforward than a group conversation. Why? It’s because there are fewer people, which makes it easier for the hearing impaired to concentrate on your speech and mouth patterns. Still, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a group discussion; you need to adapt.

An incredibly effective tip is to take turns speaking. When you do this, it allows a deaf person to keep up by locking onto one person’s rhythms. The key is not to talk over one another and interrupt as it will become unintelligible.

Write it down

When there are significant problems, there is a basic tool that is very useful – a pen and paper combo. Writing a word or sentence on a piece of paper isn’t disrespectful; if anything, it’s a sign that you want to make the process less stressful. After all, not everyone knows sign language. Of course, if you have a grasp of signing, then you shouldn’t be afraid to use the signs you understand to bridge the gap.

Learn more about your options

At Advanced Hearing Care, we take hearing impairment seriously. So, if you need a hearing instrument specialist with expertise and experience in the industry, you should call the numbers below:

  • Fayetteville: 910-630-3277
  • Aberdeen: 910-757-0686
  • Asheboro: 336-633-4327
  • Rockingham: 910-997-4848
  • Sanford: 919-775-2200