Trying to be understood by someone with a hearing impairment can be frustrating. Trust me, we know! However, as frustrating as it is for you, it’s doubly frustrating for us. We know you’re saying something and we know you’re struggling to make yourself understood and we also know that you’re getting hot around the collar.
In this situation, just about the worst thing you can say to us is ‘never mind’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’. This sends the message that you give up. On us.
If you’re a parent and your child’s teacher gave up on them because they found it hard understanding the lesson how would that make you feel?
It’s no different when it comes to the hearing impaired. To put it into perspective, to be hearing impaired is a bit like slowly discovering that you’re unlearning your native language and there’s nothing you can do about it. Words with completely different meanings begin to sound the same; while you can hear every word being said, the sentence makes no sense because the words you ‘hear’ don’t logically fit together.
Put yourself in our position
Often we ask someone to repeat something so we can have another crack at understanding what was said, but sometimes hearing it a second time makes less sense than the first time because of changes in someone’s annunciation when they are annoyed or repeating it too loudly.
It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting struggling to make sense of something when you only have a small portion of comprehension to work with. To be told ‘never mind’ or ‘pay attention’ on top of that is demoralising beyond comprehension.
Make yourself understood
The next time you’re asked to repeat yourself by someone with a hearing impairment, follow these three simple rules:
Face them while you speak.
Don’t just repeat what you said, try to find different words that convey the same meaning. The consonants P/K/F/H and the T/SH/S sounds are often not heard properly.
Speak at a normal conversational volume and pace, and pronounce your words as clearly as possible – like a newsreader would.
And don’t forget to remain calm.