A Two-Way Street
For people with hearing loss, holiday gatherings can be exhausting work. But there’s a lot friends and family can do to reduce stress and frustration. Try these tips so that everyone can join the party.
1. Gain Attention
Don’t start talking before you know your companion is engaged. Address him or her by name, and if you can, position yourself on the side where the listener’s hearing is better and gently touch his or her hand, arm or shoulder to signal the start of a conversation.
2. Reduce Background Noise
Turn off the TV or radio. Don’t start talking while you’re already doing something noisy and distracting, such as emptying the dishwasher. If you’re in an office or other public place, look for a quiet corner where there’s less activity and noise.
3. Make Your Face Visible
Your facial expressions and body language add vital information for the listener, so position yourself opposite the listener at an optimum distance of 3 to 6 feet. If the room is dim, turn on another light. Cut down on gestures that involve touching your face.
4. Help With Lipreading
Hearing-impaired listeners need to see your mouth to best understand you. Don’t chew food or gum or smoke a cigarette while you’re talking. Be aware that beards and mustaches can hide your mouth. Make sure there isn’t a light directly behind your head.
5. Speak Naturally
Shouting can distort the sounds of words, so can overexaggerating your words. You can pick up the volume a little, but don’t overdo it. And speak at a normal pace — not too fast or too slow. If the listener needs extra time to process, try inserting pauses.
6. Rephrase Rather Than Repeat
If the listener doesn’t understand a word or phrase, find a different way to say what you want to communicate. Don’t simply repeat the same words. If someone with hearing loss walks in on a conversation you are having with someone else, take a minute to bring her or him up to speed.
7. Get the Group to Help
If you’re sitting down to a meal with others, the best place for the person with hearing loss is where he or she can see as many faces as possible — in your dining room, at the head of the table, in a restaurant, in a quiet corner. In any group, try not to talk over each other or carry on multiple conversations.
8. Check in
People with hearing loss may nod their heads as though they understand what you’ve said when, in fact, they did not. If you think your listener may not be following, ask if he or she understands and, if necessary, convey the information again in shorter, clearer sentences.