Helen Keller explained to the world, “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” Hearing loss can make navigating day-to-day life even more difficult and stressful than normal. Compounding things is that most people can’t determine you have hearing loss by just glancing in your direction or briefly looking at you.
When someone sees a person in a wheelchair or using a cane, they see visible signs of disability. Most people will go out of their way to help or accommodate this person. However, when you ask the cashier to repeat themselves three times, they may think you are daft. That’s because they don’t realize that speaking to you while smacking gum or looking away turns their question, “Cash Back?” into an absurd question like, “Crash Bat?” You are frustrated because you can’t hear, and they are frustrated because they don’t know you can’t hear.
Communicating with Strangers
Trips to the bank, grocery store, or any other common errands can be stressful when you have to communicate with strangers. Like in the example above, you are frustrated because you can’t hear, and they are frustrated because they don’t understand.
You can’t expect people to make communication easier if you don’t explain what they must do to help you. When you don’t understand what is said, don’t just say, “What?” Take the extra moment to say, “I have hearing loss. It is difficult for me to hear you. Could you please speak slowly and look me in the face so I can understand you?”
With this approach, you will find that most people appreciate that you told them what they must do to communicate with you and then cheerfully do it.
Tips for Communicating with People with Hearing Loss
Relationships are built on trust and communication. This extends to all relationships. Whether it is a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor, you can’t be in a relationship if there is no trust and no communication. It is up to you to build trust. It is also up to you to let them know how best to communicate with you. If you have hearing loss, you need to figure out the best way to communicate to maintain your relationships. Don’t be afraid of communication! If you aren’t sure how to approach the subject, then just look over the tips listed below; pick the strategies that work best for you and then share them with the people around you. If you have been recently diagnosed, feel free to share a link to this article along with a note.
- Directly face the person to whom you are speaking so that they can read your lips.
- If they don’t know you are speaking to them, draw their attention by gently tapping them on the shoulder.
- Don’t exaggerate your facial expression; this makes it harder to read lips.
- Speak clearly and speak moderately.
- Always try to talk in well-lit environments. Lip reading is hard in the dark.
- Avoid communicating in noisy environments. It is hard to concentrate on all the different sounds.
- Don’t shout. Volume is not usually the problem.
- When you change the direction of a conversation, let them know you have moved to a new topic. It makes it easier to jump on the new train of thought.
Making Your Invisible Hearing Loss Disability Visible
For the most part, it’s up to you to make your invisible disability visible. You will find that it’s not hard to educate people in a friendly manner, and most people respond positively. Of course, there are always a few sour grapes in the bunch, but for the most part, people are happy to help when they understand your needs and what they need to do to ease a burden. This includes everyone from the cashier at the market, to the teller at the bank, to good old Aunt Betty.