Communicating with someone who has hearing loss can be difficult. The key is to speak clearly so that the individual can lip-read you. While it may be tempting to shout, this rarely makes a difference; it is all about being clear and talking at a slightly slower pace so that it is easy for the other person to follow your lips if they cannot actually hear you. Aside from this, you will obviously want to make sure that you do not offend the person with hearing difficulties. Of course, you would never intend to hurt their feelings, but it can be hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. With that in mind, read on to discover some of the things that you should never say to a deaf person or someone with any hearing problems…
Don’t speak to them like they are unintelligent – We have all been there. You are conversing with someone who comes from another country, and you start talking to him or her like they are from Mars, or like he or she is a young child that has only started to speak. People often have a tendency to do this when they are speaking to someone with hearing problems too. Yes, it is a good idea to speak slightly slower so that you make it easier for the other person to lip-read you. However, try to avoid speaking to them like they are stupid. You probably don’t realise you are doing it, but there is a difference between talking slow and dumbing things down.
What’s your friend’s name? – Talking about someone with hearing loss in front of him or her is incredibly rude. Just because they may not be able to hear you does not mean that they won’t feel uncomfortable, even if what you are saying is completely innocent and harmless. Rather than asking someone else about his or her friend, ask the person. If you then struggle to converse with one and other, you can always ask the interpreter, but make sure you try first.
HI, HOW ARE YOU TODAY? – Okay, so you can actually ask that question, but the point is that you shouldn’t shout! You do realise that speaking louder does not make a difference! For most people with hearing problems, it’s not the volume that is the issue. Speak clear and pronounce your words properly, and this will make a much bigger difference.
Never mind, I will tell you later – Don’t give up. Yes, it can be frustrating for both of you, but giving up on the conversation is the worst thing you can do. The other person will really appreciate it if you keep going and tell them what you were going to say.
Have you tried a hearing aid? – Yes, you are trying to be helpful. But if a hearing aid was going to make a difference, don’t you think your friend or loved one would have tried this already? It may be that the person already has a hearing aid, and so you decide to question whether it is working effectively. Again, this is something you should not do. You can learn more about hearing aids and their effectiveness here. While hearing aids can be extremely beneficial for some people, for others they aren’t helpful at all, and then for some people they can help in certain situations but not all. It all depends on the degree of hearing loss, the environment, and a number of other issues. Think about it; if you had a disability or an illness of any sort, and someone asked you an obvious question that implied you hadn’t made any effort to help yourself, you would be pretty irritated, right?
Turn your hearing aid up – This goes back to the volume thing; making something louder is not a cure for hearing loss. Not only this, but this impatient attitude can make a deaf person feel incredibly uncomfortable.
So there you have it: some of the things that you should never say to someone with hearing problems. Don’t worry if you have said any of the above phrases or sentences before, or even if you accidentally say them in the future. After all, this is a learning curve for you as well as the person who has hearing problems. Simply apologise and move forward. And, never give up on a conversation! Don’t assume that the other person is frustrated because they cannot understand you, and so it would be better for you to give up altogether. In fact, this is likely to cause more upset, as the person will be disappointed that you cannot communicate with one and other.
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