Can We Talk?
Karen Putz isn’t shy about her hearing aids. Not only do they allow her to more fully participate in life, they also give the people she interacts with a visual cue that they need to accommodate her hearing loss. That, she says, can be really helpful.
“Several of my other deaf friends had said they wear hearing aids specifically for that purpose, (so that) other people know that they had a hearing loss,” said Putz.
This mom of three hard-of-hearing kids finds people to be very accommodating of her hearing loss, and believes that most people are anxious to do what they can to help ease communication.
”All you have to do is take that first step towards whatever it is you want to do, and people will accommodate,” said Putz. “People will adjust; people will communicate.”
Nanci Linke-Ellis, a bi-lateral cochlear implant recipient who was born hearing but lost it following a childhood illness, agrees.
“You’re constantly educating people,” said Linke-Ellis. “It’s not that they don’t care; it’s just that they don’t know what to do.”
For instance, Linke-Ellis suggests that if you find yourself trying to talk in a noisy environment, and you don’t have a technological fix like an FM system, you can move the conversation.
“(If there is) somebody you really want to talk to, you take them out of the room and you go to a quiet place and you talk to them,” recommends the entrepreneur, who believes that the only true disability in life is a poor attitude. In addition to moving the conversation to a quieter room, Linke-Ellis also has another suggestion.
“Let’s say there’s a word I can’t hear (for example) ‘assist.’ So, I would say, ‘Use another word; use a word with a consonant. Use different words and I will eventually get it.’”
Try these tips the next time you talk with a family member, coworker, or friend with hearing loss. By making a few simple adjustments, you’ll both get more out of the conversation:
1. Shorten the Gap
In loud environments with lots of background noise, like a family get-together, move closer to narrow the space between you and the person with hearing loss. Conversations across the room, or from one room to another, are difficult for everyone, and almost impossible for someone with hearing loss.
2. Attention, Please
Get your friend or family member’s attention by using her name, or lightly tapping her shoulder. Wait until you’ve established eye contact before starting to talk.
Speak clearly and maintain eye contact with the person who has hearing loss, because lip-reading and visual cues from your facial expressions help provide context and comprehension.
4. Limit the Distractions
Televisions, vacuum cleaners, loud music, and other noise can cover what you’re saying, making it even more difficult for someone with hearing loss to distinguish your voice from the noise. Keep the conversation clear by turning off or moving away from loud distractions.
5. No Need to Shout
Speak naturally, in your normal voice. Speaking more clearly and slowly can help those with hearing loss understand what you’re saying.
6. Know Your Audience
Hearing and understanding require focus and can take a lot of energy — for anyone. Someone with hearing loss, however, has to work even harder to follow a conversation, particularly in a group of people. Simply understanding this will help you be a better conversational partner.
7. Practice Patience
Be aware that when someone is first learning how to use a hearing aid, it requires a great deal of concentration. Be patient and, if necessary, take a break for a little down time; you can pick up the conversation again later.