Tuesday, May 20, 2008

There's no need to shout!

Almost everyone I know has read, is reading or is about to read Deaf Sentence by David Lodge. I only started reading it last night and so far I've spent the time nodding in agreement, smiling sympathetically or wanting to put my old professional hat on and give the protagonists a bit of advice.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. Don't use exaggerated mouth movements; they can't be understood and they make you look very silly.
  3. Sit or stand so that the light falls onto your face and not into the eyes of the listener.
  4. 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.'
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Humour helps as does a friendly or sympathetic smile. A notebook and pen can rescue a situation, too.
If you are over 25 then your hearing is already deteriorating so start learning to lip-read now! That looks like a subject for another post.


  1. You are a gem! I'm going to print multi-copies of this and keep them in my bag and hand them out to people who who behave in a clueless fashion in the company of someone who is deaf. So there.

  2. Let's make the most of this little 'window of opportunity' for raising awareness, D! We might never get another!


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