Communicating with those who are hearing impaired does not necessarily require sign language. In fact, there are multiple ways to communicate with people who suffer from hearing loss, depending on factors such as the degree of their loss, their speaking abilities and educational background. Some of the alternatives for interacting with the hearing impaired include facial expression, pantomime, body language, visual aids, speech-reading and finger spelling. Here are ten tips to help you communicate better with the hearing impaired.
1. Get their attention before you start speaking to them
Ways to gain attention include approaching the individual's visual field, a gentle tap on the shoulder or flicking lights slowly.
2. Be sure the person is ready to hear you
Allow them a moment to focus because understanding speech requires more concentration for a hearing impaired individual.
3. Do not speak from another room or from a distance
Stay in close proximity with the hearing impaired person, which creates a more personalized experience and reduces the possibilities of miscommunication.
4. Do not speak with your back towards the person or turn away while conversing
Let the hearing impaired person know that you have their attention by facing them and using effective eye contact.
5. Speak face to face and in a well lit environment whenever possible
By speaking face to face you increase the odds of successful communication, since it allows them to see your appropriate facial expressions and read your lips.
6. Do not speak with your hand or other obstructions in front of your mouth or while chewing
Many hearing impaired people can read lips, but communication becomes difficult if your mouth is covered up even by a mustache.
7. Speak clearly and distinctly, no mumbling or shouting
Mumbling creates confusion even among people without hearing loss. Conversely, do not shout or yell - shouting distorts your words. Avoid difficult language and keep sentences short so that they can follow along easily. Speak at a normal pace and uses pauses to ensure understanding.
8. Do not speak in competition with other noises like the tv, radio, running water, etc
Be conscious of all background noise and try to reduce or eliminate it as much as possible by shutting off unnecessary appliances.
9. Be patient when communicating with someone who is hearing impaired
Strive to create a more relaxed environment, which enhances one-on-one communication.
10. Be supportive to the person with a hearing impairment
The best way to gain the trust of an individual with hearing loss is to ask them for ideas that would help improve communication.