There are over 11 million people with hearing loss in the UK – that’s one in six of us! You may have friends or family members with hearing loss, or know of someone in your local community who does. If you're in contact with lots of people at work, it’s likely that you will come across someone with hearing loss on a daily basis. In any case, communicating with someone with hearing loss need not be difficult.
Picture: 'I can't hear you if you cover your mouth'.
Here are my eight top tips for aiding communication:
How noisy is the environment that you’re in? Loud places such as restaurants or pubs can be difficult for people with hearing loss to communicate in. It might be helpful to move to a quieter corner!
Can your face be easily seen? Many people with hearing loss lipread to some extent. Make sure you face them when you’re talking and try to avoid turning away mid-conversation or covering your mouth with your hands or clothing.
Are you somewhere with good lighting? Well-lit places are much easier for people with hearing loss to communicate in. However, make sure you’re not positioned with your back to the light source (such as at a window) as this creates a dark silhouette which is harder to see!
Is your speech clear? Try to speak nice and clearly, avoiding any unnecessary jargon where possible. Speak at a normal pace – very quick or very slow speech can be difficult to understand.
Does the person know you're speaking to them? Make sure you get the attention of the person with hearing loss before attempting to strike up a conversation with them. You could wave at the person to catch their attention, though most people don't mind a gentle tap on the shoulder.
Can you repeat, rephrase, or write it down? Where a person with hearing loss doesn’t understand what you’re trying to tell them, don’t be afraid to repeat or rephrase what you’re saying. If they still don’t understand, write it down!
Do you know any basic sign language? With around 87,000 Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) here in the UK, knowing some basic signs could come in handy one day! Most of all, it can be really fun to learn. Learning the fingerspelling alphabet is a great place to start. If you work in a coffee shop, perhaps learning how to sign words such a ‘tea’ and ‘coffee’ would be useful, or if you work in the NHS it might be good to know the signs for ‘ill’ and ‘better’. There are some great resources to get started here.
Are you relaxed? Most importantly, remain relaxed and patient when communicating with a person with hearing loss. Having a relaxed environment establishes a good communication base and will make all the above much easier to remember and implement!
Do you have any other top tips to aid communication? Let me know in the comments!
This week (15th May – 21st May 2017) is Deaf Awareness Week. In celebration of the week and in a bid to raise awareness, I will be writing about important issues that link with hearing loss.