Do's and Don'ts of Interacting with the Hard of Hearing
Whenever I go someplace new, I'm always trying to be aware of the do's and don'ts when it comes to mannerisms, the way you speak to someone, and culture in general. If you can't adapt to someone else's world, traveling may not be in your wheelhouse. For me, I love the challenge of adapting and adjusting, but recently, as I was doing my best to learn about Greek culture, I was thinking about my own situation/culture, the hard of hearing one, and how I wish people could be more attentive to my needs; so I decided to put together a brief do's and don'ts list for interacting with hard of hearing individuals. It may give you some insight into how we operate ;) Keep in mind this is a brief list of things that pertain to me personally but are general to most individuals like me.
- Look at us when you speak (keep eye contact)
- Refer to us as deaf or hard of hearing
- Act as naturally as possible
- Be patient (as we may not always understand what you said, hence a frequent smile and nod ;))
- Speak in a normal tone
- Include us in your conversations
- Repeat things if necessary
- Use pantomime, body language, and facial expression to help supplement your communication
- Use open-ended questions that must be answered by more than 'yes' or 'no.' This way you know if your message has been communicated clearly to the hard of hearing person.
- Ask us to choose the best seating for communication
- Use visual aids, if possible.
- Make sure we don't miss vital information.
- Eliminate background noise when possible
- Turn away when you speak
- Talk to us from behind
- Assume that you'll need to repeat yourself
- Refer to us as hearing impaired (not personally something I'm offended by but others in the deaf community find it offensive because of the negative connotation of "impaired"), deaf and dumb, or deaf mute
- Try extra hard to enunciate or overenhance body language
- Speak slower than you normally would
- Speak to us when we're doing something else
- Cover your mouth
- Shout at us
- Say "nevermind" if someone didn't hear you the first time
- Throw something at us to get our attention
- Assume we can't hear you when you sit at the other end of the table (I can still read your lips ;))
- Get frustrated with us when we ask you to repeat yourself (trust me, I'm just as frustrated having to ask you to repeat yourself.)
I promise that if you try even just a couple of these tips, you'll not only help me but you'll enhance your experience with those of us are that are hard of hearing!