If you’ve recently read my hearing loss story, you’ll know I have a hearing impairment.
I’m very open in talking about it, and I don’t feel ashamed in doing so.
However, there are some days when it does get me down. Particularly when communicating with other people.
I’m very lucky that I have perfect hearing in my right ear, so I have to depend on my right ear quite alot when it comes to communicating with people. In the office, I place the phone on my right ear to ensure I hear people down the other end of the line.
If I’m out in a loud crowd, I ask people to speak directly into my right ear when it’s too noisy to hear anything.
Or if I’m out with friends for dinner, I ensure I sit in a position where I can hear everyone, so meaning sometimes sitting at the end of the table with everyone facing my right ear.
I’ve taken on these little habits and they help me through everyday social situations, but sometimes I find people do lack in common courtesy when it comes to people communicating with me. Sometimes it’s with people who obviously don’t know that I have a hearing impairment, other times it can be with people that are fully aware of my hearing impairment.
I think I can safety say that this applies to everyone who has a hearing impairment. So here are some Do’s and Don’ts on personally, how I feel people should be communicating with hearing impaired people. I was inspired by a campaign that Action for Hearing Loss did a while back called Are you deaf aware, where they explain that you may be excluding people without realizing, giving top tips for how to communicate to hearing impaired people.
Are you deaf aware?
Disclaimer: this is my opinion alone. Everyone is different.
Use eye contact – Eye contact is so important, whether you’re someone with a hearing impairment or not. For a start, it’s polite and it’s common curiosity, but for me personally, I can hear a person much more clearly if that person is directly speaking to me and giving me direct eye contact. It shows that you’re paying attention to me, that you are interested in talking to me and you are focused on me, therefore I’m more focused on what you’re saying.
Repeat things if necessary – If I don’t hear something, I will either say “pardon” or “can you say that again” so if I do, please repeat! It’s super helpful and I just appreciate it when someone takes the time to repeat themselves again, even if that means repeating themselves 3 or 4 times sometimes in my case. I particularly find it difficult to hear people when in loud, overcrowded spaces with lots of background noise, so this is when I’ll most likely ask for something to be repeated.
Speak up, if in a loud space – I struggle with this so much. This was one thing I would struggle with whilst I was working in a coffee shop, full of loud noise, people and everything going on all at once and most things going in and out of one ear. It’s so helpful when someone speaks up, and pronounces their words.
Include me in your conversations – I find it difficult when there’s a big group of us who go out to socialize, with everybody talking all at once and I’m struggling to focus on one conversation at a time. I’ve found a few times when I’ve wanted to be included in a conversation that I’ve missed and when I ask what’s going on, some people don’t include me by catching me up with a conversation. I want to feel included, and I want to feel like everyone else who’s in the loop. I don’t want to be left on the side like a wet mop.
Ask questions – Honestly, I am more than happy to answer any questions people have about my hearing impairment. It’s always good to educate people and personally for me, hearing loss is something that is rarely spoken about, so the more we educate people, the more people learn more about the different types of hearing loss and hearing impairments. My hearing impairment is different to other hearing impairments. They’re not all the same, so just ask me and don’t be afraid. I’ll respect you a lot more.
Say “never mind” if someone didn’t hear you the first time – THIS FRUSTRATES ME THE MOST HENCE WHY IT’S IN CAPITALS. When someone says something to you, and you didn’t quite catch it and ask them to repeat it and then they turn around and say “oh, never mind”… you are literally the rudest and most in-considerate person ever in my opinion. Especially when they know of your condition. Either if you have a hearing impairment or not, this indicates to me that you don’t have time or consideration for me to repeat something, that’s probably going to take less than a minute to repeat. I noticed this lots whilst at University, with people who knew of my hearing impairment would still do this. Unfortunately I kept quiet about it back then, as I never wanted to cause a big fuss over something that I thought would seem silly. But no, I wish I spoke up about it, because really it’s just common sense and manners.
Say I’m not listening to you – “you never listen to me” or “you don’t listen to what I say” or “listen to what I’m saying” are some of the examples of words that just make me feel… well, shit. I can’t help it. Sometimes I will be told something and a few seconds later, it’s not fully processed in my brain for me to have actually hear it properly. I honestly can’t help it and I try and try to listen hard, but then that’s when I get headaches and feel exhausted. I feel sometimes even the ones closest to me have said this to me once or twice in the past, and it hurts. I’m trying.
Call me from another room – My other weakness. I can hear you when speaking to me in the same room, but if you’re downstairs while I’m upstairs and you’re calling for me, well… you’re going to be calling for a while. My parents do this alot, and I’ve told them off for doing it several times because they forget that I can’t actually hear them unless they scream their lungs out. I feel stupid enough having to apologize for not hearing them.
Look away from them when talking – Again, common sense and manners. Why would you look away from someone when speaking anyways? I have started lip reading when it comes to communicating with people, as if I can’t hear something, I’ll be watching their lips which helps me understand them alot more. If you’re not facing me whilst talking to you, then I have no hope in hearing you correctly, or lip reading you.
Don’t speak too fast or too quiet – If you speak fast without taking any breaths, there is no way I’m gonna hear you! If you’re speaking without actually opening your mouth to pronounce your word, then I have no hope. PRONUNCIATION IS THE KEY. I sometimes get some words wrong, as I hear the vowels of a word, but sometimes I miss-hear the consonants, therefore I think you’re saying something else when actually you’re saying something completely different to what I think I’ve heard.
Talk slowly – I know I mentioned above that I struggle to hear people when they’re speaking fast, but speaking slowly is just as bad. It comes across as patronizing. It can come across offensive, even if you don’t mean to be.
Say “what?” to tease me – This gets boring. When I say something, whether to do with my hearing or not, it really bugs me when people turn around and say “what?”. I’ve heard it a million times before, and I’m bored of that response now.
Looking at this post, I see there are more Don’ts than Do’s. This wasn’t an intentional post to have a rant and a moan, or to make you feel sorry for me. This is more a post to educate people and perhaps to remind people to be respectful.
Whether you have a hearing impairment or not, I think most of these points are basic common sense and manners anyways. This should be common knowledge on how to speak to someone in everyday life. Hearing impairments are not always obvious, including mine, so always be respectful because you don’t know what challenges people have to face everyday.
Always be kind to one another.
If you do have any questions regarding my hearing impairment, or hearing aids or anything similar, I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.