Talk between people with and without hearing difficulties can often prove uncomfortable. As with people who have visual impairment, people with hearing loss differ greatly: Some are totally deaf and can hear nothing, others have some hearing loss and can hear some sounds, and still others have impaired hearing but can hear most speech. Although people with profound hearing loss can speak, their speech may appear labored and may be less clear than the speech of those with unimpaired hearing. Here are some suggestions for more effective communication between people who hear well and those who have hearing problems. These suggestions were drawn from a variety of sources: Tips for Communicating with Deaf People (Rochester Institute of Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Division of Public Affairs), http://www.his.com/~lola/deaf.html, http://www.zak.co.il/ deaf-info/old/comm_strategies.html, http://www.agbell.org/, http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/comucate.htm, www.ndmig.com, www.mass.gov, and http://spot.pcc.edu/~rjacobs/career/communication_tips.htm.
If you have unimpaired hearing, generally:
· Set up a comfortable context. Reduce the distance between yourself and the person with a hearing impairment. Reduce background noise. Make sure the lighting is adequate.
· Avoid interference. Make sure the visual cues from your speech are clearly observable; face the person squarely and avoid smoking, chewing gum, or holding your hand over your mouth.
· Speak at an adequate volume. But avoid shouting, which can distort your speech and may insult the person. Be careful to avoid reducing volume at the ends of your sentences.
· Phrase ideas in different ways. Because some words are easier to lip-read than others, it often helps if you can rephrase your ideas in different words.
· Avoid overlapping speech. In group situations only one person should speak at a time. Similarly, direct your comments to the person with hearing loss himself or herself; don’t talk to the person through a third party.
· Ask for additional information. Ask the person if there is anything you can do to make it easier for him or her to understand you.
· Don’t avoid common terms. Use terms like hear, listen, music, or deaf when they’re relevant to the conversation. Trying to avoid these common terms will make your speech sound artificial.
· Use nonverbal cues. Nonverbals can help communicate your meaning; gestures indicating size or location and facial expressions indicating feelings are often helpful.
If you have impaired hearing:
· Do your best to eliminate background noise. Reduce the distance between yourself and the person with a hearing impairment. Reduce background noise. Make sure the lighting is adequate.
· Move closer to the speaker if this helps you hear better. Alert the speaker that this closer distance will help you hear better.
· Ask for adjustments. If you feel the speaker can make adjustments, ask the speaker to repeat a message, to speak more slowly, or to increase volume.
· Position yourself for best reception. If you hear better in one ear than another, position yourself accordingly and, if necessary, clue the speaker in to this fact.
· Ask for additional cues. If necessary, ask the speaker to write down certain information, such as phone numbers or website addresses. Carrying a pad and pencil will prove helpful for this and in the event that you wish to write something down for others.