This simple guide will help you to communicate with listeners suffering from mild to severe hearing loss. Sometimes hearing aids alone aren’t enough, so what else can you do?
Get their attention
Before you start talking, get your listener’s attention. Say their name – if you are in a group situation, address them by name before directing your comment to them. If their hearing loss is more severe, or you are in a noisy environment, you may need to touch them on the arm or shoulder to get their attention. This simple act of getting your listener’s attention prepares them to hear the first part of what you are saying, so you don’t have to repeat yourself.
Maintain eye contact
This is less about staring soulfully into your listener’s eyes, and more about facing them with your whole body. A big part of understanding speech and conversation is watching someone’s face, as well as hand gestures and body language. If you turn your face away, for example having a conversation with your back to your listener while washing the dishes, it will make you much more difficult to understand.
Don’t touch your face
When speaking, try to keep your hands away from your face. Covering your mouth makes it difficult for those with hearing impairment to lip read. If you smoke, try keeping the cigarette in your hand when talking, and only bring it up to your face when you are not trying to communicate.
Don’t talk with your mouth full
It’s likely your mother or father told you not to speak with your mouth full as a child, and it looks like they were onto something. Distorting the shape of your mouth and lips while talking makes it almost impossible for a hearing impaired person to lip read. Talking while applying lipstick, with your mouth full or when chewing gum makes you difficult to understand, especially in noisy environments where hearing is problematic at the best of times.
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When speaking to someone with hearing loss, many people automatically speak loudly and exaggerate their words. This is counterproductive, as it can make the listener feel self-conscious, and it distorts your face, making it more difficult to read. The best thing to do is to speak clearly and distinctly, without exaggerating. Avoid mumbling, speak at a normal rate and use pauses in your speech to give your listener time to process, rather than speaking slowly.
Don’t repeat yourself
If your listener is having difficulty understanding you, don’t just keep repeating the same phrase – if they didn’t understand you the first time, chances are they won’t the second or third. Instead, try to find a different way to say it, but rephrasing your words.
Avoid background noise
Background noise doesn’t just mean noisy environments such as restaurants and parties. Try to reduce all background noise by turning off the radio or television when conversing, and asking for quieter tables when you go out.
Check your lighting
We’ve established that your listener’s being able to read your lips, expressions, body language and are important aspects of communicating effectively with someone suffering from hearing loss. So it makes sense that if they can’t see you properly, all the clear, natural speech in the world isn’t going to help. Check that you are not backlit by a window when talking, and if you are in a dark room try turning on a lamp.
writing, using pictures or diagrams or even finger spelling with the AUSLAN alphabet can be good ways to supplement your conversations. Even sitting on the couch together and texting each other using your phones can be a fun way to have a stress-free conversation.