Deaf History Month is from March 13 to April 15.
Even though someone might be deaf or hard of hearing, there is no reason why there should be any miscommunication between them and someone else. Some people just might need extra training or tips when it comes to communicating with someone who is deaf.
First, let’s differentiate between hearing loss, hard of hearing, and deafness:
Hearing loss is when there is diminished sensitivity to sound. There are different levels of hearing loss and it can affect either one ear or sometimes both ears.
Hard of Hearing
Being hard of hearing refers to people who still communicate through spoken language and might benefit from hearing aids, captioning or listening devices.
Deafness applies to people who have profound hearing loss. This can imply that they have little to no hearing. Deaf people often use sign language to communicate.
There are a number of things that can be done when communicating with a person who is hard of hearing:
- Get their attention before you start speaking to them. This way they know to look at you and they may read your lips.
- Keep your distance. You should stand a few feet away so you can see each others facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language. Non-Verbal communication can sometimes reveal just as much as spoken communication.
- Speak clearly, but not too fast or too slow. Speak at a reasonable pace that feels natural so that they can focus and try to understand or read your lips.
- Rephrase the message. If they are not receiving the message properly, try expressing it in different words so that it is easier to understand.
- Consider your environment. People with hearing loss may need good lighting in order to see. Also, it is optimal to eliminate external noise and distractions.
- Turn your face towards them so that they can read your lips. (In fact you should be facing anyone that you are speaking to.)
- Don’t shout, regardless of whether they are hard of hearing or have total hearing loss, shouting looks aggressive and can make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Next time you find yourself in the situation where you must communicate with someone who is deaf, remember, it is not difficult, just follow our tips and you should be able to have a seamless conversation. You never know, it just might be the most interesting conversation you have ever had.
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