Hearing Awareness Week is Sunday 24th to Saturday 30th August, 2014. Hearing loss is more widespread than thought. Statistics show that one in six people in Australia have a hearing loss. With these figures, hearing loss is likely to have occurred or will occur to someone you know. This could be your neighbour, your grandparent, your colleague or even you. Hearing loss can occur from birth, genetics, illness, and physical trauma, chemicals, increasing age or exposure to noise. Please display this communication guide, written by Lisa Mills from Honeybee Creations, in your workplace, community or home environment for others to read and learn. The more hearing aware (or deaf aware) everyone can be, the better for Deaf and hard of hearing people. Knowledge leads to understanding.
Learn to communicate with your whole body and not just spoken words – Body language is important in Deaf and hard of hearing communication. Deaf and hard of hearing people have difficulty communicating with people who rely only spoken words. A lot can be ascertained from body language.
Get the Deaf or hard of hearing person’s attention first and then give steady eye contact when talking – This also means to stop talking if you need to look away or walk away. If you look away Deaf and hard of hearing people cannot read your lips or body language.
Talk with lighting on your face and not behind you – Deaf and hard of hearing people will misinterpret you if they cannot see you well.
Communicate with clear and specific gestures – Gestures help Deaf and hard of hearing people to make sense of what you are saying. This includes communicating with the pointer finger to point to what or whom you are talking about. Frequent pointing is socially acceptable in Deaf culture.
Rephrase your sentences and keep your sentences short and concise – In other words, don’t repeat your sentences in the same order if you are not understood. Deaf and hard of hearing people are more likely to understand you the second time if you rephrase. Fewer words are more easily understood and less stressful for Deaf and hard of hearing people.
Put the subject matter first in your spoken sentences – Placing the subject matter first lessens the guesswork and helps Deaf and hard of hearing people to know immediately what you are talking about. English sentences often put the subject matter last and this makes it difficult for Deaf and hard of hearing people.
Speak clearly and at a steady pace – This means not to shout or speak too slowly because this will distort your lips patterns. This also means not to pause between each of your words. And, to relax your lips when talking. Just talk normally but with a bit more care and put emphasis on the key words.
Speak sequentially and stay on the same subject until the subject has ended – Speaking in random order about one or more subjects can be confusing for Deaf and hard of hearing people. Instead try to speak about one subject in sequence from beginning to end before moving onto the next subject.
Talk one at a time and allow time for questions to be asked – Talk and then stop and listen to the other person until they have finished. If you have a question wait until the other person has finished talking. In other words, don’t interrupt the other person and don’t all talk at once. And create opportunities for the Deaf or hard of hearing person to ask you questions to clarify what you are saying.
Pause two seconds after the other person has finished talking and then you may proceed to talk – This ensures the other person has finished saying what they need to say. This also gives Deaf and hard of hearing people extra audio or speech processing time and visual cues as to whom is talking next.
Give a visual cue when you are talking in a group so you can be located – For instance, open your hands in front of your chest or put your hand up briefly to direct eyes towards you. This way Deaf and hard of hearing people will know it is you who is talking. Deaf and hard of hearing people often cannot locate where spoken words are coming from.
Maintain sufficient space between you and the Deaf or hard of hearing person – This is so the Deaf and hard of hearing person may get communication clues and cues from body language and lip reading. Neither is clearly visible if you are standing too close or too far away.
Keep your arms open and hands free of objects – This approach will enable you to use gestures more freely with your spoken words. This will enhance communication and the rapport between you and the Deaf or hard of hearing person.
Use facial expressions and body language to give meaning to your spoken words – For instance raise your eyebrows and lean forward slightly if you are asking a question and hold your body position forward until you get your answer. And, lean back slightly with a smile, and perhaps a head nod, if you are saying a statement or are in agreement with the other person.
Use pencil and paper or type a text message on your mobile phone if miscommunication occurs – Use this method to remove the stress of miscommunication. This method is helpful if rephrasing your sentences has been misunderstood. Remember, miscommunication is always more stressful for the Deaf or hard of hearing person than it is for you.
Be patient and calm – You will be able to adjust your communication methods more easily if you are patient and calm. And the Deaf and hard of hearing people will be able to relax and will be more successful in processing what you are saying.
Remove visual obstacles from your face – Remove sunglasses, have hands away from the mouth and keep moustaches and beards trimmed. This will make lip-reading for a Deaf or hard of hearing person easier. Statistics say the best lip readers can accurately get 30% of lip-reading correct and the rest is guesswork.
- *NOTE: This article is to be used as a guide only as no Deaf or hard of hearing person are the same. Each person has different communication needs but most communication needs will be more or less the same.
- *This article uses the following terminology: ‘Deaf’ with a capital D to refer to Deaf people who use sign language; and ‘hard of hearing’ people for those with a hearing loss and do not use sign language. The term ‘hearing impaired’ has not been used, as this is considered politically incorrect and derogatory.
- Copyright Lisa Mills 2014: Coverstar of Sensis Sunshine Coast QLD White / Yellow Page 2014/15 ‘Inspiring others to achieve’. Founder / Managing Director of Honeybee Creations. Established to provide Deaf Awareness and Hard of Hearing Awareness Training in the Workplace throughout Australia. (This training maybe subsidised by government funding). Contact us for more information: www.honeybee-creations.com
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