Top 5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Communicating With a Hearing Impaired Person
Hearing loss is the second largest disability, and on top of that it is a largely invisible one. An estimated 11 million people in the UK suffer with hearing loss, which amounts to almost 1 in 6 of us. With such a large amount of us dealing with hearing loss it’s essential that we understand how to make communication easier. Take a look at these 5 tips to keep in mind when communicating with someone with hearing loss.
1. Gain their attention before you start to speak
Gaining the listeners attention before you start to speak to them ensures that they do not miss the start of the conversation. One can do this in a number of ways. If their hearing loss is not profound, you can try saying their name. If they have more severe hearing loss then you could try waving or lightly touching their arm. If you start talking without gaining their attention there is a high chance they will miss some of what you say.
2. Maintain Eye Contact
It is important to make sure you are facing the person with hearing loss when speaking to them. Facial expression and body language provide a lot of important information to a conversation, especially if one participant is hard of hearing. You can see the person’s emotions in their facial expressions, and this, plus the person’s body language can help a person judge the intended tone the person is using. Are they joking, or being serious? If you can’t see them it’s harder to judge.
3.Keep things away from your face and lips
Many, if not most, people with hearing loss make use of lip reading when speaking with hearing people. When speaking with a person who has to utilise lip reading to make it easier to converse, one should make sure that they do not cover their lips with a cigarette when speaking or by lifting a mug or cup for example. Not talking whilst eating or chewing gum will help make your speech clearer, and not distort the shape of your lips whilst you talk. Overdoing it on bold lipstick, or having a large beard, can also make it more difficult to read lips as it changes the shape and appearance of the persons mouth.
Contrary to popular belief talking louder or slower will not make it easier for the person to understand what you’re saying. When talking to someone with a hearing impairment you should speak normally, and without exaggeration. Many people think shouting will help but it only distorts the shape of your lips as you speak, making it harder for people to understand you and lip read. Speaking at a normal pace, and pausing rather than speaking slowly gives them time to process what you’ve said. Another important tip is to rephrase things, not simply repeat them. The chances are if they couldn’t understand you the first time you said it, saying it the same way again won’t help.
5.Pick a Suitable Place to Converse
Picking the right place to converse can make all the difference when talking with someone who has a hearing impairment. Picking a place that has good lighting and won’t cast lots of shadows over one’s face will make it easier for lip reading. Likewise picking a place that does not have too much background noise will make it easier to converse as the person will not have to spend as much energy trying to discern what is background noise and the chatter of other people, with what you are trying to say to them.