People who go deep underground to explore caves may report sound distorts when they call across cavernous space, and through winding tunnels. Being deaf is a bit like being at the end of a tube. The words don’t sound quite like the way the speaker sent them out.
Many hard-of-hearing people view their deafness as a difference in hearing experience. Hearing aids can help, but only to an extent. People rely on well-hearing people to do the heavy lifting for them. So how should we communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing?
Deafness Is a Deeply Misunderstood Condition
Deafness is a bit like depression in many well-hearing peoples’ minds. They don’t understand the problem. They expect hard-hearing people to ‘snap out of it’ and get on with their lives. In centuries past, otherwise decent people put deaf people in asylums, because they thought they were mental.
However, Encyclopedia Britannica says scientists became curious about the ability of deaf people to achieve rational and abstract thought in the 18th Century of Enlightenment. Deaf people are exactly like the rest of us, except they are in a place where the world is quieter.
Communicating With People Who Are Hard-of-Hearing
The Degrees of Hearing Loss
The world is somewhat quieter, but to a varying extent for deaf people. We must take these differences into account if we communicate with hard-of-hearing people, or they simply won’t fully grasp what we are saying. There are five degrees of hearing loss according to Hearing Health Foundation. However, both ears are seldom the same when it comes to hearing ability.
- MILD HEARING LOSS
People with mild hearing loss have difficulty with quiet sounds. Young kids with small larynx voice boxes are a problem, as are gently spoken people. Soft consonants like C, R, S, N, D, and T are harder to make out. It’s like having stuffy ears when you are in bed with the flu.
- MODERATE HEARING LOSS
Communication with deaf people becomes a little harder if they have moderate hearing loss. That’s because they also struggle to discriminate between the vowel sounds A, E, I, O, and U. We form these by positioning our tongues in corners of our mouths. But some people don’t always do this properly.
- MODERATELY SEVERE HEARING LOSS
Deaf people with moderately severe hearing loss are unable to make out speech without hearing aids. Even these may only be partly helpful, because increasing the volume does not always work.
- SEVERE ANDS PROFOUND HEARING LOSS
Communication with people with severe and profound hearing loss can become extremely frustrating for both parties. Cochlear implants are the only option. Without them, they may be unable to even detect very loud sounds, like airplane engines, traffic, or fire alarms.
Communication with Hard-of-Hearing People
Communication is a two-way street at all times. The speaker must communicate their thoughts clearly, while the receiver must concentrate on the message.
Do you remember our story of people communicating in caves across open spaces and through tunnels? Keep this in your mind as you read on … because both the sender and the receiver have their roles to play:
- Successful communication with hard of hearing people begins with parties facing each other. The transmitted sounds can then travel directly between them, following the shortest route possible.
- Sit or stand face-to-face with the light shining on your face. We give out visual clues when we speak from our lips, our eyes and our expressions too and every bit helps.
- Speak clearly, distinctly, and slowly. Don’t shout, or exaggerate the way you use your mouth. Communication with deaf people should flow in a natural way. Shouting makes lip reading more difficult.
- Remember your consonants and vowels. Don’t mumble the soft ones. Sense your tongue moving to different parts of your mouth as you speak. Be conscious in the present moment, focus on it.
- Hard-of-hearing people don’t always realize someone is speaking to them right away. They have to surface from their tunnel of deafness, and refocus their thoughts. Speak their name first, wait for their eye language to confirm.
- Try to stay away from noisy environments if you can. If they can’t make out what you say, express it a second time using different words they may understand better. Ask them to repeat key information like a phone number.
- And finally, watch their faces as carefully as they watch yours. Be alert for face language like puzzled looks, or glancing down. Ask leading questions tactfully, so you can understand whether they understood.
Hearing Aids Can Lend a Hand in Situations Like These
People with mild-to-moderate hearing can still hear, but not clearly. If you have a friend who is hard of hearing, then they could benefit from Blue Angels’ special offer of two rechargeable digital hearing aids for the price of one.
We offer a money-back guarantee if our products don’t work as expected. Our hearing aids are surprisingly inexpensive. They could make the perfect gift for a friend in hearing need.