First: I am very aware of the fact that talking to somebody with impaired hearing is very tricky for those with normal hearing. This kind of disability is difficult to notice.
When I meet sombody under “controlled conditions”, I mention my hearing aid right after we have been introduced. Unfortunately, this important detail is forgotten rather quickly and needs many reminders.
Fact #1: When I am in a loud enviroment with background noise and people talking (e.g. when I am sitting in a bus: droning of the engine, a group of students is talking), I may not be aware that I am adressed. In this cachophony of sounds, it is difficult for me to recognise speech. It may even not react to my name – it just doesn’t reach my mind.
Best solution: Make eye contact and signal that it is me you want to talk to. Stand where I can easily see you, I read lips to support my hearing.
Second best solution: A light touch. This will also alert me to you. Second best because I startle easily. I know that there a many things I don’t notice. Being touched means, something (maybe something dangerous) is very near.
Fact #2: When I keep saying “I didn’t understand that”, I refer to the clearness, not the volume level of speech.
Best solution: Try to speak more clearly. Sometimes it’s the little things, e.g. a full beard that keeps me from reading lips.
DO.NOT.YELL! Like any other person, I do not enjoy to be yelled at. And if the problem is in the clearness of your speech, speaking louder won’t help.
Fact #3: My intelligence has not been impacted by my poor hearing. Using “simple” ore “baby language” insults me and is uncalled for.
Best solution: Speak as normal as possible.
Second best solution: If talking is too difficult, we have to keep trying (go to quieter room, write…)
Fact #4: Verbal communication is very exhausting for me. I may be used to it, I may be able to compensate a lot, but at some point I am at the end of my rope.
Best solution: Accept if I don’t stay at a party until morning. Accept when I prefer texting or writing an email to talking on the phone, because it is easier. Accept that I need lots of quiet time to recharge in which I don’t want to talk and listen.
Fact #5: It’s ok to have a laugh about misunderstandings! I don’t mind, in fact, I’ll be the first to find it funny!
Best solution: Laugh, they say it’s healthy 🙂
And if I am hanging off your every word, it is because I read your lips. You have my undivided attention. Some teachers in school thought I was making fun of them, but I am just very thankful for every word I understand.
Participating in the world of normal hearing people is very hard for somebody who has limited or no sense of hearing. A setting without background noises, with lots of light to make lip reading easier, may not be romantic, but it helps communication. A little thoughtfulness is all I ask for, it helps so much.