Communicating with someone with hearing loss

Guest blogger Daniel Pistritto shares his tips for better communication.

dan and cath

Communicating with someone who has a hearing impairment can be a bit of a challenge, for both parties. While it might be frustrating for you; the speaker trying to be understood, it is most definitely doubly challenging for the person trying to understand what is being said to them. Here are a few tips to make it as easy as possible for you both.

Get their attention – Say their name or gently touch their arm or shoulder. Sometimes simply making eye contact can be enough.

The important thing to remember is that you may need to utilise a sense other than hearing to get the attention of the hearing impaired person.

Try to keep it positive though; there is a big difference between a gentle tap and a frustrated shove.

Make it easy – Try to find a quiet location, be at a comfortable distance, face them and don’t cover your mouth.

This makes it as easy as possible to hear what is being said while being able to lip read also.

Make it comfortable – Give them time to absorb what is being said. It’s okay to talk a little louder if that makes things easier but try not to shout.

Watch for signs that what you have said has been understood. If they look confused, it’s very likely that they are trying to piece together some meaning from the small fragments that they understood.

Just the facts – Keep it brief and to the point. The more you say, the more they need to try and understand. Try to give them the gist of what you need to say early on.

Make it Visual – Use your face, hands and body. Express your feelings about what you are saying.

Use a pen and paper if you feel this would help.

Rephrase if required – Don’t repeat the same words if you are not being understood. Try to find a different way to say it.

Be Patient – Losing your cool will only make it harder for you both.

I often share the below true story with my clients to illustrate some of the above points.

My wife had asked me to bring the clothes in off the line for her. Her initial request was along the lines of

“When you get a moment, could you please bring the clothes in from the line outside?”

I didn’t understand so she repeated herself. Again she could see I didn’t understand, so she changed her wording, keeping a smile on her face.

“I have some clothes hanging outside” (while pointing in the direction of the clothes line)

Once she could see I understood, she continued

“Could you please take them down (hand gesture of pulling off clothes pegs) and bring them inside for me?” (pointing to our laundry)

Again she waited for a sign that I understood

Finally she added

“No hurry, just when you have a moment”

From my perspective; until she had established that she was talking about clothes hanging on the line, I was unable to piece together enough meaning from the fragments of her original request that I did understand.

The visual indications of pointing to the clothes line, hand gestures of removing pegs from the line and then pointing to the laundry helped to fill in any blanks and gave it all meaning.

As I now knew what she wanted me to do, it was easy for me to determine that she was lastly telling me that it was of low urgency and I could do it when I had the time.

For more easier-listening tips, head to www.blameysaunders.com.au.

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