Talking to a hard of hearing person is easy! Follow these communication guidelines to improve conversations and cut back on repeats.
Always get the person’s attention first. Say their name, wave until the person looks at you or tap their shoulder.
Face them when talking. Be within 6 feet for the best listening/seeing advantage.
Make sure your face is in the light and not in the shadows. Hard of hearing people use lipreading to some degree.
Take care to enunciate. Speak at a moderate pace and make sure nothing is in your mouth or in front of it.
Use gestures and facial expression as every little bit helps.
Do not shout. Shouting distorts words and faces making it hard to understand.
Rephrasing is a key element.
Sometimes hard of hearing people get stuck on a word or phrase. Instead of repeating the same thing, try rephrasing. Use a synonym if possible. Include more facts in the sentence. If it’s a long list break it up into smaller sentences.
-Their new sofa was so comfortable.
-Their new couch was very comfortable.
-We’re all going to watch a movie on 33rd this afternoon, do you want to come?
-Rhonda, Brenda and I are going the movie theater on 3300 south this afternoon. Do you want to come?
-Hello my name is John. Welcome to our café. Here’s our specials for the day: Stout braised bratwurst, chipotle barbeque pork sandwich and citrus marinated chicken tacos. Would you like to try any of those?
-Our specials are bratwurst, spicy pork sandwich and chicken tacos.
As a hard of hearing person, instead of saying “what” or “say that again” try making these a habit instead:
Can you say that again but in a different way please?
I heard this part (repeat what you heard) but I missed the last part. Can you say that in another way?
Can you slow down and break it into shorter sentences for me?
Tell me more about the chicken tacos.
With a little practice rephrasing becomes second nature.
Most of us who are hard of hearing live among the hearing and probably don’t have hard of hearing friends to hang out with, on a local level anyway. Some of us may be lucky enough to go to HLAA meetings and experience being around other hard of hearing people where we know to practice the rules for proper hard of hearing communication, we know how to talk to each other. When that’s done we slip right back into the hearing world.
Hanging out with with other hard of hearing people for an extended amount of time tends to set a routine within the first 6 hours (or less) and suddenly we have a new normal. This happens at hearing loss conventions and it’s heaven. Not only is there live captioning at all the workshops and during the banquets but loops are available too so it’s a world catered to hearing loss. To top that off, the people are awesome away from the workshop settings too. There’s almost no impatience with repeats or with the various modes of communication; hearing aids, cochlear implants, personal amplifiers, lipreading and even writing things down when all else fails. As most of you are already aware, I come home with a natural high after conventions.
Last month I went to Minnesota for a week to hang out with hard of hearing friends, most of who I met at past conventions only this was no convention. There were no workshops or fancy accommodations. This was several of us visiting for what we call a “fling” and it was my first time doing this and it’s just as wonderful as going to the conventions.
I kept a running list of my obsersevations while I was there. Here are 10 things I loved about hanging out with my tribe.
We get each others attention before talking. Whether it was touching an arm or waving a hand around, we got the other person’s attention which avoids half the repeats.
We faced each other while talking which also cuts down on unnecessary repeats.
If we were out walking we’d stop to face each other to talk instead of continuing to walk. This keeps someone from walking into a sign, a light pole or falling off the curb. In my case, it kept me from slipping on ice a few times. We may not get anywhere fast this way but communication is better.
No matter who’s house you go to, the captions are already on the television. Woo-hoo!
We can advocate together. At a restaurant we told the waiters we lipread and we wanted captions on the TV. Together we complained to management about improper maintenance of CaptiViews at a movie theater. I think together we make more of an impression.
No one talks with their mouth full because most of use lipreading to some degree. We start chewing fast while holding up a finger or waving a hand around in front of our mouth to signal ‘wait a second’ until food is gone. No flying food with us!
If we are bunking in the same room together, snoring isn’t going to bother either one of us. Bonus!
There’s very little talking while driving which may seem odd at first coming from the hearing world but it becomes comfortable. Hearing in cars has been one of my most difficult situations since I was a teenager, trying to hear above the radio, road noise and traffic noise. I’m exhausted in cars after a few hours of someone talking the whole time. It’s a huge strain on my mental capacity to hear in a car and will eventually wear me out physically too. It was quite nice to sit back and enjoy the scenery with the driver’s eyes on the road.
I had lipreading backup. By far, my friend Michele is better than I am so when we went into a grocery store and both of us only heard/saw one word on the cashiers mouth the entire time I felt relief. Some people are just harder to lipread than others for various reason.
We joined several other friends in a fancy, business style, dark hotel bar. We sat by the fireplace and all our eyes squinted in concentration with a few of us in the shadows. Only with a group of hard of hearing friends can I turn on my cell phone flashlight and put each speakers face in the spotlight with out complaints. (We also had some fun with shadow play.)
There were a few odd things about being with others who are hard of hearing.
Without thinking about it, we vie for the best positioning. We want to be front and center. We want to face the room in restaurants for visual purposes. We always want the others persons face in the light.
Usually we know when the other person doesn’t understand something that was said. We recognize the look in the far away look in the eyes, the deaf nod or the blank smile…but sometimes we don’t. Some of us are good bluffers but it will usually come out in the end anyway.
Niether of us can hear the tea kettle screaming away on the stove. I’m used to my husband telling me when the microwave is done or a timer is going off but that option is not available with other hard of hearing people.
Here’s a couple of things that came to light about those of us who are hard of hearing.
We are followers. When with a group of people who are going out to do something we lose track of the back and forth conversation and end up following. (Of course we blindly follow along only with people we trust.) Where are we going? I don’t know but we’ll find out.
Without meaning to be, we are noisy in the kitchen. My husband tells me to “take it easy” every now and then when I’m cooking. I don’t think I’m loud but I am and now I know others get the same things from their family also. We don’t know we are being loud, trust me.
The week went by fast, too fast. Coming home I was in my element at the airport and in the plane. I told people what I needed and got a few surprises like the ticket agent telling me he was learning sign language just so he could talk better with those who were deaf. Without being aware of it, I was riding that natural high the whole time.
I came home to reality, sigh. I’m not complaining about my home life because Ken is good about most of the communication between us but it wasn’t my world anymore. Someone told me that’s the sign of a good vacation coming home a bit bummed because it’s over. I can agree with that. It sure makes me look forward to the next SayWhatClub convention.
For years I have mostly stayed home to watch the Super Bowl because I want to watch it the way I want to watch it. Mainly I want to control the captions. I don’t like the captions on during the game because they are often displayed right in the middle of screen where all the action is going on. Or they put the captions over stats, times, scores, etc and sometimes I want to see all that too. However I like to turn the captions on during the commercials for they are half the fun! So watching football with me means I push a lot of buttons.
This year I have the hearing loop to top it off. Now I really don’t need or want captions during the game and I can hear the commercials that aren’t captioned. This year it looks like all the commercials were captioned anyway but I was prepared.
We got an invite this year and my husband politely turned it down after talking to me (see my reasons above). His friend came back and said he has 3 TVs so I could have the captions on one of them. This is where I took over and thanked him for the offer then explained my remote control control use. “I’d need to be the remote control queen.” I also told him I have the hearing loop here at home and that’s an added benefit. I expected to see “I understand” but instead he came back with “You can be remote control queen and bring your loop too.” Wow! I get to watch the game the way I want and be social too??? Okay then, we accepted the invite.
He sent my husband a picture of the back of his TV so we could figure out the connection ahead of time. Funny enough, we used a spare connection from the Bluetooth TV streamer I have and don’t use (I can’t keep my necklace charged to use it). We got there a little early and this is what I see as I walk into the living room.
My husband pulls out the loop and it connects to the TV without a problem.
Now I’m all set with lots of options. I can watch the game, hear the game, and socialize. His remote control had a special CC button, so I could move in and out of super bowl captions especially fast. I was in Super Bowl heaven.
Good food, good people and a pretty good game even though I wasn’t cheering for the team who won. It was a unique experience and I was honored to be included. I was touched and so thankful for my husband’s friend, our friend, to include us.
I think that was the first time I’ve told someone the full reason why I don’t go to Super Bowl parties. Why haven’t I given people my reasons before? I could be more proactive and not automatically assume it won’t happen. There are some really good people out there. I think most people fall into that category. I think I’m pretty good about asking for accommodations but then something like this pops up, and I see I could do better.