Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hearing-Loss Etiquette

Hearing impairment is a less dramatic disability than blindness but is much more common. Hearing loss can be slight or complete or anywhere in between. Your response may be keyed to the degree of hearing loss. In any case here are some tips that you will find helpful.
  • Be sure that you have the person’s attention before you start speaking. If necessary, wave a hand, give a tap on the shoulder, or make some other signal. Do so gently.
  • Some deaf people depend entirely on lip reading to discern what others are saying, and many with partial hearing loss depend on it to one degree or another. Accordingly, face the person you are addressing and make sure the light is on your face so that he or she can see your lips more clearly.
  • Don’t get frustrated if you have to repeat yourself. If necessary, write it down or get someone to sign for you.
  • Don’t keep repeating the same phrases. Be flexible. Choose another word or rephrase the whole sentence. Keep in mind that some words “look” similar to a lip reader. If “I’ll drive the car around front” doesn’t seem to work, try “I’ll bring the car to the front door.” Keep your hands away from your face while speaking and don’t eat, chew, or smoke. You should be aware that a mustache may hide your lips and prevent a lip reader from understanding you.
  • Remember that the person with the hearing loss will rely to some degree on expressions, gestures, and body language.
  • Never talk from another room. When people who are hearing impaired can’t see you, they may not be aware that you are speaking.
  • Turn off the television or radio and reduce other background noises so that you can be heard more clearly.
  • Don’t shout. Don’t use exaggerated lip movements. Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Face the other person, preferably on the same eye level. Do not turn away until you have finished speaking.
  • You can bend down to get a little closer to the ear of the listener but don’t speak directly into the ear, don’t touch, and don’t shout.
  • Remember that fatigue, stress, illness, or fright affect everyone. External factors such as jet lag or a common cold can increase difficulty in communicating: Adjust your behavior accordingly.
  • When a hearing-impaired person is in a group and the others are laughing at something he hasn’t heard, explain the joke to him or let him know that you will explain it later. Because of past cruelties, your friend may be oversensitive and may think that the others are laughing at him or her.

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