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For Hearing People : Talking to the Hard of Hearing

Posted Dec 08 2008 9:14am

--Whenever possible, face the hard-of-hearing person directly, and on the same level.
--Your speech will be more easily understood when you are not eating, chewing, smoking, etc.
--Reduce background noises when carrying on conversations -- turn off the radio or TV.
--Keep your hands away from your face while talking.
--If it's difficult for a person to understand, find another way of saying the same thing, rather than repeating the original words. Move to a quieter location.
--Recognize that hard of hearing people hear and understand less well when they are tired or ill.
--Do not talk to a hard-of-hearing person from another room. Be sure to get the attention of the person to whom you will speak before you start talking.
--Speak in a normal fashion without shouting or showing impatience. See that the light is not shining into the eyes of the hard-of-hearing person.
--A woman's voice is often harder to hear than a man's, because of its pitch. A woman might try to lower the pitch of her voice when talking to the hard-of-hearing to see if that helps.
--Speak slowly and clearly.
--If the hard-of-hearing person wears a hearing aid, make sure that it has batteries installed, the batteries work, the hearing aid is turned "on" and that the hearing aid is clean and free from ear wax.
--If you know (or if it becomes evident) from which side the person hears best, talk to that side.
--It is better to speak directly face-to-face in situations where relatively diffuse lighting is adequate and lights the speaker's face. This allows the hard-of-hearing listener to observe the speaker's facial expressions, as well as lip movements.
--Persons with hearing impairment can also benefit from seating themselves at a table where they can best see all parties (e.g. from the *end* of a rectangular table).
--Announce beforehand when you are going to change the subject of conversation. Doing so might avoid an unfortunate "faux pas" by a hard-of-hearing listener.
--Sometimes hard-of-hearing persons have "good" or "better" sides -- right or left -- ask them if they do. If they indicate a preference, direct your remarks to the "good" side or face-to-face, as they wish.
--Check to see that a light is not shining in the eyes of the hard-of-hearing person. Change position so that you are not standing in front of a light source such as a window, which puts your face in shadow or silhouette and makes it hard for the hard-of-hearing person to *speech read*.
--Avoid abrupt changes of subject or interjecting small talk into your conversation, as hard-of-hearing listeners often use context to understand what you are saying.
--If the hard-of-hearing person wears an aid, trying raising the pitch of your voice just slightly. If the hard-of-hearing listener is not wearing an aid, try lowering the pitch of your voice.
--If all else fails, rephrase your remarks or have someone whose voice is familiar to the hard-of-hearing person repeat your words.
--Don't talk too fast.
--Pronounce words clearly. If the hearing-impaired person has difficulty with letters and numbers say: "M as in Mary", "2 as in twins", "B as in Boy", and say each number separately, like "five six" instead of "fifty-six," etc. The reason for doing so is that m, n and 2, 3, 56, 66 and b, c, d, e, t and v sound alike.
--If you are around a corner, or turn away, you become much harder to understand.
--Keep a note pad handy, and write your words out and show them to the hard-of-hearing person if you have to - - just don't walk away leaving the hearing-impaired listener puzzling over what you said and thinking you don't care.

Many hard-of-hearing are embarrassed that they can't hear. Many avoid crowds or situations that make hearing difficult. Certain environments, such as radios, TVs, and ventilation systems are also a problem for the hearing impaired – especially for those that wear hearing aids.
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