Do's & Don'ts | Communicating with Hearing Impaired People


Today’s post is a collaboration with a lovely blogging friend of mine, Stephanie. You can check out her blog here. She’s another deaf blogger like me, based in Melbourne, Australia, and blogs about cruelty-free beauty, food and lifestyle. She also adds a bit of geeky stuff and puns into some of her posts. I love her to pieces.

We wanted to put together a little Do's and Don'ts list when communicating with hearing impaired people, things that people should be a little more aware of. I also wanted to do this post to give you guys a little guideline for in the future you meet other people with hearing impairment. All in all its just common sense.


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 will happily talk about my hearing impairment, I'm not sure whether I've gone into great detail about my hearing loss but I wear hearing aids in both ears which do help me a lot but come with a few struggles and that is communication. Some days it gets me down. We all communicate in different ways, i communicate by eye contact and following you lip pattern i.e Lip Read. I think i can safely say that this applies to everyone who have a hearing impairment.

Do's

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 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. I prefer to lip read and listen, it makes things easier.

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.

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. This also helps me when I'm lip reading people around me whenever i engage in a conversation. 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.

Speak up, if in a loud space – I struggle with this so much. This was one thing I would struggle with whilst  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 more clearly. Adjust your volume according to your surroundings. We struggle so much when we're in loud places, because it's really hard to make out a conversation when there is a lot going on.


Don'ts

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, crap. 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. I'm really trying. And this does happen a lot when we're tired or people are too far away for me to lipread. Of course i prefer to double check even if that means asking you 3 times.

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. It's just simple as that don't speak too fast or too quiet.

We might also have trouble understanding you if you have an accent, and what most people don't get is that lipreading is a challenge when you speak in a way that's so different to what we're used to. We are really trying our hardest, we try so hard that it results in us getting exhausted or headaches. It hurts when you tell us that we’re not listening, because we are, but you just don’t seem to want understand that.

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. So just think about that when communicating with someone who's hearing impaired. Otherwise, you'll come across as patronizing and ignorant. Intentionally speaking slowly is rude, especially if you're opening your mouth wide and mockingly enunciating each syllable. Also, do not mime

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 when i was in high school, no one educated themselves about my hearing loss and when they said 'never mind' it felt like i was being pushed to the back. I wish I spoke up about it, because really it’s just common sense and manners. I'd like to think it has changed a bit even just a little.

If you haven't had any experience socialising with deaf people, that's okay, because there are two ways to go about it; one is to ignore, isolate or alienate us (if you do this, prepare to be hated upon) and the other is to communicate with us like every other person that you meet. We all prefer the latter, and these days, in established countries, we are experiencing fewer discrimination, as well as getting more facilities suited for our deafness and hearing impairments. It's an arduously slow process, but we are getting there. Other races are not so lucky, some having deep-seated superstitions that end up ostracising people like us, or having very little education on the disability.

A lot of us have been deaf since birth or early childhood and we've grown up around our deafness, we've adapted it and turned it into a lifestyle. We have a community, we have a language, we are a race. We don't need or want pity, we don't want you to pray for us or "heal" us. We get this a lot, and frankly, it is offensive. We do not see it as an illness.

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 be respectful because you don’t know what challenges people have to face everyday. Be kind to those you meet. Always

Let me know if you'd like me to do a post, going into more detail about my hearing impairment. Thank you for reading!

No comments