ASSOCIATION OF LATE-DEAFENED ADULTS
TIPS FOR IMPROVING INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS
Communications between hearing people and those in the hearing loss world can be challenging. They can range from awkward, frustrating, and full of misunderstandings to relatively smooth, natural, and totally effective. Here are some tips that can help improve interpersonal communications with people with hearing loss. Part I contains tips for hearing people, and Part II contains tips for those with hearing loss and late-deafened adults. ALDA relies on the motto of Whatever Works. There is no one right way, but there are options.
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TIPS FOR A HEARING PERSON SPEAKING WITH A LATE-DEAFENED ADULT
It may take some time to learn how best to talk with someone with hearing loss. You are both learning how to handle this communication situation. Experiment a little. Use humor and smiles. Ask how you can help or what might work better. Be patient, positive and relaxed. You are already one step ahead as you seek ways to communicate here with ALDA. Whatever Work!
- Get the persons attention prior to speaking. You can try calling their name tapping the table or floor, lightly tap on their shoulder or waving your hand. Other options include flashing lights on and off. Just be certain to wait for a response first.
- Just be certain they are looking at you before you begin to speak.
- Speak clearly and your normal pace. Do not over pronunciation your words or turn away while speaking.
- Lip reading is a learned skill and is limited in its effectiveness when used alone. Only about 30% can be captured by lipreading alone. Do not assume that the hard-of-hearing/late-deafened adult that you are speaking with can lip read well (or at all!). To help while facing them when speaking:
- Always keep your face free and clear and your mouth visible! Avoid blocking your face with objects such as your hands, a hat or scarf or a newspaper. If you have a mustache, consider trimming it so that your lips can be easily seen.
- Avoid having objects in your mouth such as gum, cigarettes, or food.
- The best distance for effective communication is 3 to 6 feet. Avoid being too close so they can see your visual cues including facial expressions and your mouth.
- Before beginning your story or comments, tell your listener what you are going to talk about.
- Give clues when changing the subject. Consider an agreed upon gesture or sign to indicate when you start a new topic.
- Speak at a slow-to-normal rate and pause between sentences. This gives the listener time to catch up. They are working hard to process a lot of clues to make up for what they do not hear.
- Use facial expressions and gestures.
- Encourage questions and clarifications. This helps fill in the blanks and add more information as to what the person may not hear or understand.
- If one or two words keep tripping up your listener, try using a different way to express the idea. For example, you might change “DO YOU WANT A DRINK?” to “WOULD YOU LIKE SOME WATER?” Rephrase when you are not understood.
- Shouting makes you look and sound angry and distorts the sound signal. If your listener has some residual hearing, it may help to speak slightly louder than normal, but not as loud as a shout. If your listener’s hearing is gone, shouting will not bring it back.
- Keep other external sounds for your listener’s attention to a minimum. If the person with a hearing loss has some residual hearing, consider minimizing background noise as well as background visuals (TV, dishwasher, music, etc.). Ask the host for the quietest table in the restaurant, away from the traffic patterns. Consider going places during off-hours to avoid the crowds (for example, have dinner at 4:30 or 8:30). Avoid busy background situations.
- Use lighting so the person can see what is being said. This does not mean no candles, but the use of light can help ensure the person with hearing loss can see clearly. Avoid sitting where you might be in the shadows. Feel free to ask, can you understand me okay? Or what can I do to help?
- Talk TO the hearing loss person, not ABOUT him or her to their partner. Remember that a hearing partner does not need to see your face to understand. The person with hearing loss DOES.
- Experiment with voice recognition software for the family and closest friends to caption your conversations. A computer, laptop, iPad, cell phone and such can be used when a lot of information needs to be exchanged. Use it to help with key words, names, numbers and more.
- Consider using email or text or other means of typed correspondence to better understand what is being discussed and remain connected.
- Handwritten messages and drawings can help as well. It helps to have paper and pencil handy.
- The hearing loss adult may need your help to find the right speaking volume. Realize that a hearing loss/late-deafened person may not be able to hear their own voice. You can use subtle hand gestures to share to bring their voice up or down.
- Consider learning sign language. Even if your friend or family member with a hearing loss does not now sign language, you can learn together. Learn the manual alphabet. Being able to fingerspell a few words can be useful.
Know someone who in need of assistance with hearing loss? Contact ALDA, we will gladly share ideas for consideration to make a difference for the person in need. CONTACT HERE.
TIPS FOR ANYONE WITH HEARING LOSS AND/OR LATE-DEAFENED
SPEAKING WITH A HEARING PERSON
There is no one right way to communicate. Use what you can and find what works best for you. It may take time so be kind to yourself and those around you as you adapt to the world of hearing loss.
- Remember to practice honesty. Try not to bluff or appear that you understand something that you do not. You want to avoid mistakes or misunderstandings as much as possible.
- Be prepared by thinking about what the topics of conversation might be. For example, keep up on current events, review names before going so that they are easier to understand, and anticipate awkward situations with back-up plans to solve any problems.
- Inform others the best way to speak with you, including if it is one-on-one or group conversations.
- Practice advocating for yourself. It is OK to ask the speaker to:
- Please speak a little more slowly or more naturally. If they keep forgetting (and they will), tell them you will use a palm-down signal to remind them to slow down again so you do not interrupt what they are saying. This allows the natural flow to continue.
- Please lower or raise their voice a little.
- Make a note (or use a hand gesture) whenever they are changing the subject so you adapt and avoid confusion.
- Feel free to remind the speaker about your hearing loss if they temporarily forget to speak with you effectively. Be certain to thank them when they remember to encourage positive reinforcement.
- Feel free to provide feedback to hearing speakers about how well they are communicating.
- Use technological devices and wear your hearing aid(s) and/or Cochlear Implant(s). Remember to practice the use of your various settings. You may need to change your settings to mute background sounds to better hear whomever you are speaking with. And when the gathering is over, you may need to change your settings again. Practice and make this a habit.
- Keep your devices charged and have extra batteries on hand.
- If possible, ask others to wear a clear mask. Bring them with you and ask those around you to wear them so you can read lips, if you are able. Or ask others to obtain their own clear masks. But regardless, do not remove the mask to better understand what is being said.
- Reminder: Only about 30% of sounds can be determined by lip reading. Lip reading is a learned skill and is limited in its effectiveness when used alone. Instead of asking someone to repeat everything, verify what you think you heard or understood. If you are mistaken, they can clarify. Learn how to VERIFY and CLARIFY instead of asking them to repeat.
Hearing Person: Do you want to meet Thursday at 3 o’clock at the park?
Late-Deafened Adult: Thursday at three o’clock at the park? Yes, that’s fine!
Hearing Person: Yes! See you then!
- You can avoid confusion by having them write down instructions, addresses, phone numbers, etc.
- At a workplace, if possible, ask someone to be your communication assistant to stand beside you and write names, key words and important details on a paper for you.
- Take a break during parties to relieve the stress of constant concentration. Arrange for frequent breaks if discussions or meetings are long.
- Set realistic goals about what you can expect to understand.
- Stay safe during the pandemic or in any emergency/medical situation where masks are required. Be certain to share – do not take off your mask but I have a hearing loss or I am late-deafened and may have difficulty understanding you. You can then ask if they have a clear mask they can wear so you can better understand what is being said. Remind them to keep words to a minimum and to the point. You will need to be cautious with the use of apps if it requires your device being in close proximity to the speaker. Use visual cues or preprinted information on paper when possible.
ALDA is actively advocating for your rights with clear masks, captioning and more for you. Share your thoughts and ideas on our contact page found here: https://alda.org/contact/
Your voice matters. You Matter!