Almost 100 years ago, in 1927, the Federation of Organizations for the Hard of Hearing introduced the National Hearing Week. By 1972, the event expanded to the Better Speech and Hearing month, celebrated in May of each year to advocate for communication disorders among those who are hearing impaired or have other communication difficulties.
This year, with the unique communication difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and masks, we would like to offer several tips when communicating with someone suffering from hearing loss:
Be compassionate. This is the first and foremost rule. If you find yourself losing your patience, please understand that the person you’re speaking with is struggling, too.
Get their attention. Someone with hearing loss may not be able to pick up your words if you speak to them in an off-hand manner. If you have their undivided attention, though, they will be focused on your voice and will understand your words much more easily.
Speak clearly, not loudly. Speaking loudly emphasizes the vowels of speech, but someone who suffers from hearing loss misses the consonants. Speaking clearly and enunciating the consonants will get your point across much faster than speaking loudly.
Reduce background chatter. Sometimes, turning the television or car radio off may make it easier to communicate. And if you make dinner reservations at a restaurant, request a quiet area.
Make sure your lips are visible. Lip-reading is very important for the hearing impaired. They often combine the spoken word with the shapes of the words as the lips form them, in order to understand speech.
Use some cool tech. Various smartphone or tablet apps will allow you to offer real-time captions as you speak, which can make a conversation go very smoothly. If the ambient environment is just too loud for real-time captions, then texting is the perfect solution.
So, the first thing to do is understand that we all struggle to communicate, whether you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss. So, getting undivided attention before starting a conversation, speaking clearly and visibly, and reducing background noise will help.
If all else fails, bring out some pretty cool tech. Not only will that spark an interesting conversation, but it will also make that conversation easier.