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Can You Hear Me Now? Part II

Last time, we learned my Top 5 Tips for communicating effectively with the D/deaf and hard of hearing people in your life.  Now that you’ve had a chance to begin incorporating those changes into your regular communication, let’s take a look at tips #6 through #10 to further improve your communication!

Tip #6: When in group conversations, be careful not to speak over one another. A D/deaf person will focus on the speaker and may not become aware that someone else is talking if everyone is talking at once. This leads to gaps in the conversation and a lack of understanding of what is going on.

Tip #7: It is okay to ask questions. Most people that are D/deaf would prefer you ask them about their hearing ability, the ways they prefer to communicate, even how their hearing aid(s) work (if applicable) rather than have things be uncomfortable or difficult.

Tip #8: Learn what sounds your friend or loved one can and cannot hear and, with their permission, share with them sounds you hear that you know they cannot. Letting them know about important things such as emergency sirens, smoke alarms, etc., can be vitally important, but also telling them about the rain you can hear on the roof, the frogs croaking the welcome of spring, the violin in the song that is playing, the ambient sounds on the TV that foretell what’s going to happen – these are all types of sounds we miss out on. If they have lost hearing, there are sounds they likely remember and miss. You can help them to “hear them again”.

Tip #9: Understand that if they can hear you in one situation, it does not mean they can hear you in another. For example, when I am in the kitchen and my kids speak to me through the window to the dining room I can hear them (when nothing else is going on). BUT, if the TV is on in the living room, or the water is running, or the fan is buzzing, or I am cooking in the kitchen, I cannot hear them. Same distance, same people, different result. Be willing to walk to where the person is to have the conversations you want to have.

Tip #10: Don’t be afraid to use other resources! Write things down, gesture, point, draw, ask someone else to repeat something for you, text or email, video chat, learn sign language – maybe together. There are lots of ways that you can communicate with someone who is D/deaf or hard of hearing, sometimes it just requires thinking outside the box. Most importantly, don’t give up! The person or people in your life that deal with hearing loss want to be included just as much as you do. Working with them to help them “hear” you will only help to strengthen your relationship with them!

If you use these tips and work to find ways to include them in your communication you will soon be saying “can you hear me now?”

- Caryn