Most people will recognise the situations where impaired hearing leads to impaired communication, resulting in misunderstanding, frustration and annoyance. Deafness can disable both listener and speaker, putting a great strain on relationships. So, if you have an elderly parent or aunt, a spouse or neighbour who is getting a bit deaf and you are beginning to dread spending time with them, here are a few tips:
- Don't shout. Shouting distorts your face and the sounds you make. Speak clearly and just a little more slowly than you would normally but don't break up the normal flow of speech.
- Don't use exaggerated mouth movements; they can't be understood and they make you look very silly.
- Sit or stand so that the light falls onto your face and not into the eyes of the listener.
- If the listener doesn't understand what you say, don't keep on repeating it but say it in a slightly different way e.g. if 'I'll see you on Monday at 3.30' doesn't work, try 'The day after tomorrow at half past three.'
- If you are giving important information, double check that the person has understood. Use 'open' questions such as 'How many pills do you have to take?' and not a simple yes/no question like 'Did you hear?' or 'Do you understand?' because most people will pretend they have heard.
- Hearing aids amplify sound, they don't correct hearing loss in the way that glasses correct poor vision. Hearing aids are only effective over a short distance and in quiet surroundings. If you are planning a visit, choose somewhere quiet and well-lit.
- Groups are very difficult for people with impaired hearing and they tend to avoid them or to sit quietly in the corner. You can make groups more deaf-friendly by asking people to indicate when the speaker or topic changes.
- Humour helps as does a friendly or sympathetic smile. A notebook and pen can rescue a situation, too.