People affected by hearing loss and deafness encounter communication barriers daily. Despite their efforts to try to keep up with society, they often still experience being ostracized and misunderstood because of how they are perceived & treated by society. There may be instances where using hearing aid devices or forms of communication like sign language may not be enough. Regardless of the situation, we must never let them feel shunned. Instead, we must communicate with them in a way that makes them feel respected and included. Here are some tips to effectively communicate with people who are deaf and have loss of hearing.
Before communicating, you must first get their attention. Refrain from immediately speaking to them without checking if they are aware of your presence. You can gain their attention by waving in front of them if you are within their line of sight or lightly tapping their shoulder or arm.
While communicating with them, ensure you are facing them & maintaining eye contact. Not only does this make the conversation sincere, but it also allows for a better understanding of what you are trying to say since facial expressions become more noticeable.
People with hearing loss and deafness communicate in different ways. It can be through lip reading, hearing devices, or sign language. In any case, make sure that your mouth is visible. Otherwise, it can be more difficult for the person to understand you. If you are in an area that requires mask-wearing, you should wear one that still shows your face. Face masks with a clear front are available in stores like Jelli Tech. Speaking clearly and slowly (but not too slowly) can help the person see the mouth patterns that can help them decipher what you are saying. Also, if the listener seems confused about something you said, repeat what you said. You can rephrase if they are still having difficulty understanding what you said. You can also ask them what part they did not understand and repeat that particular word or phrase.
Aside from the face and mouth, hand gestures and body language can also help to get your point across. Visual cues help convey information, and these often complement your words which helps people with difficulty hearing make better sense of the flow of the conversation. If you are up for it, you can also try learning sign language to better communicate with others.
Lastly, be patient and don’t give up easily. People with hearing loss and deafness are also trying their best to communicate. Communication requires effort on both sides to have a good and sincere conversation. One’s inability to hear should never be a hindrance that prevents one from communicating with others. Remember to speak with others in the most appropriate ways possible. Let’s all do our best to make an inclusive environment for our deaf & hard of hearing community.