There’s a stereotypical way of speaking to people with hearing loss, which is slowly and very loudly. However, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this, you can vouch that it is both embarrassing and demeaning. So if a colleague, friend, or partner suffers from hearing loss, what is the best way to speak to them?
What Not To Do
First, ditch the idea of shouting. Volume does have a part to play, especially if you have a soft voice which those with normal hearing struggle with. In this case, project your voice more, but don’t resort to shouting.
Instead, articulate well (but without exaggeration) and speak clearly. This enables the listener to avoid the confusion of not understanding mumbled words even if he can hear them.
Face the Listener
In addition, stand or sit facing the listener. He will pick up cues from your facial expression and lip movements, as to the general gist of the conversation. Also, feel free to gesture with your hands; again, this gives cues as to the emotion and context of what is being said.
These details are like puzzle pieces which fit together in the listener’s brain to make sense of a partially received message and fill in the gaps. The listener doesn’t need to hear every single word in order to string together the overall picture, as long as he has other sources of information.
If the listener didn’t hear you first time, don’t repeat the same information with the volume turned up. Instead, try rephrasing it. The listener will have caught some words the first time, and by rephrasing the conversation it gives another angle to their understanding.
Don’t give up too easily. Keep persisting because it is the inability of a hard of hearing person to be part of day-to-day conversation which leads to feelings of social isolation and possible depression.
Even people with normal hearing struggle to hear in a noisy environment. Don’t try to push a point if there is a lot of background noise. Instead, move to a new location where there are fewer distractions.
Stay on Topic
The brain of a person with hearing loss works overtime to make sense of the sounds heard. This means rerouting speech to different areas of the brain, which physically takes time. If you swap and change the topic of conversation, this overburdens the brain, and the hearing-impaired person will struggle to keep up. Instead, stick with one topic, and then make it clear when you are changing with a simple comment such as, “Moving onto something different…”
Feelings of social isolation are a common problem for people with hearing loss. By following these simple tips you can break through that isolation and help the person to feel part of things once again.