These Tips and Hints are my own – other’s may feel differently, so take what’s relevant to you. Nothing is set in stone. I’ll update this as I think of it, but here are a few tips and hints when talking to hearing impaired or deaf people:
- Gently get their attention so they know you’re talking to them.
- Face them so they can see your lips and face.
- Speak slowly. Talking louder distorts sound, it doesn’t make speech clear. Speak in a normal voice, but slow it down to help the listener distinguish words.
- Don’t try to whisper into a person’s hearing aid. It just doesn’t help and makes for an awkward situation.
- Be patient. If you have to repeat and the person still doesn’t get the word, either choose another word, spell it, or write it down.
- If you have a deaf person in your life, learn finger spelling. It’s easy and works great in a pinch! (You both have to know it for this to work.)
- This may be the most important one – please don’t say “never mind” (or words to that effect) when a person who can’t hear isn’t getting what you’re saying. It’s very hurtful and insulting – it tells us we’re not worth the trouble of trying to help us understand. Even if you have to write something down, please don’t say never mind and walk away.
- If someone close to you loses their hearing, ask how they are and if there’s anything you can do. Pretending it didn’t happen feels like not caring.
- Don’t keep trying to ‘fix’ or change us. Believe me, we’ve checked out our options and sometimes acceptance and understanding is the best thing you can do for us.
- When you do have trouble getting something across to us, please don’t say you wish we could hear. We wish we could hear too, but we can’t. I’m always hurt when someone says that to me in that context.
- Please don’t try to talk to us from another room, when our back is to you, or any other situation where we can’t possibly see your face. When we don’t have speech understanding, even if we catch the sound of your voice, we’ll have no idea what the words are. Sometimes we don’t know you’re talking at all, so don’t think we’re ignoring you.
If you are the hearing impaired or deaf person:
- Tell people you are hearing impaired or deaf. Don’t try to bluff. In the long run it doesn’t work and is way too stressful.
- Ask people to face you and speak slowly. Tell them when you don’t get a word. Ask them to repeat or use a different word. They’re not mind readers and neither are we.
- Ask people for help when you need it. Even strangers are willing to help if they can. Don’t be shy about not hearing. It’s not a faux pas.
- Be extra careful crossing streets, in parking lots, even on the sidewalks. People can’t tell we’re deaf (or hearing impaired) just by looking at us and may expect us to hear them coming. Always watch your surroundings.
- Get and use whatever assistive devices you possibly can. Every little bit helps. And take good care of your devices. Make sure you always have spare batteries on you so you don’t get caught in a hearing void.
- If you are driving, remember that you won’t hear sirens and won’t know emergency vehicles are there until they are close. Scan your mirrors frequently. Watch for the flashing lights. And always be extra careful when you’re driving. Again, people don’t know you can’t hear them.
- Try to help people help you. Pay close attention when someone is trying to tell you something. Try not to get frustrated. Try to keep a sense of humor about thing and make people more comfortable.
- When you’re in restaurants, choose your seat carefully. You want to be able to see your companion(s) lips, so make sure there’s enough light on their face. If you have hearing aids, check with your audiologist to see what the best seating would be for your hearing aids. For instance, I prefer a booth to a table in the middle of the room when possible. If we’re at a table, I try to keep the noise behind me so my hearing aids pick up less room noise. Find out what’s best for you.
Assistive Devices and Ideas:
- If you wear hearing aids, make sure you have the right ones for you. Don’t be afraid to try something because it doesn’t look right on paper. Sometimes reality and what’s on paper are different.
- Don’t be afraid to tell your audiologist if something isn’t working or you don’t like it.
- Take care of your devices. Keep them clean and dry. Protect them. They are your link to sound.
- Don’t get a bunch of gadgets just to have them. Make sure you get what works for you!
- Think about your life and what would make you feel more secure and confident. For instance, I keep security cameras around my house so if the Wonder Pups bark, I can look to see if there’s anything amiss. I keep a pen in my bag so someone can write things down if I don’t get what they say. DHH wears a special clip on microphone that brings his voice right into my hearing aids – especially when we’re in the car, in restaurants, or it’s dark. Be creative. Think about what you need.
- I recently went to the theater to see “Hello Dolly” and it wasn’t a captioned performance. In order to get the most out of it, I searched online for the script and read it the night before. When I was at the show, I was able to put some context to what I was speech reading and because I read the script, I was able to keep up better. It might not always be possible, but it’s worth a try if the script is available.
There’s a show on Netflix called “Switched at Birth.” Without giving away the story, I can tell you that deafness is a big part of the show. If you would like to really understand what it’s like, they’ve nailed it. I wondered how they ‘knew’ me. Even if you watch only the first two episodes, they can give you a lot of insight into what it’s like for us, how people deal with us, how we handle it, etc. I highly recommend it.
More to come as I think of them. Check back often!