It’s Deaf Awareness Week, so as yours truly has cloth ears, I thought I’d do my bit to help with that awareness. I lost my hearing after having a baby and have to rely on hearing aids to hear. There’s more on that in this post here. However, even with hearing aids it’s a day to day struggle trying to hear sounds and conversations. What would help people like me, is if people were aware of the ways that would help us with our hearing issues (and in turn help you).
So, here’s my tips for when you’re with a deaf person:
– ensure you’ve got your deaf friend’s attention before talking to them
– make sure you’re talking in their direction and don’t turn away in the middle of talking to them either. If you suddenly need to grab something that’s in a different direction to your friend- stop talking & start again once you’re facing them again. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your breath.
– don’t cover your mouth. I can’t lip read, but this still makes a difference for me. I guess we all must subconsciously lip read slightly.
– speak clearly and not too fast, but not so slowly your friend might want to slap you for patronising them.
– if your friend has asked you to repeat yourself, please make a concerted effort to speak louder. It’s surprising the amount of people who don’t do this. You’ve been asked to repeat yourself because you’re not speaking loud enough for them. Repeating what you have to say in the same volume is pointless.
– as hard as this can be sometimes, when with a group of friends, try not to speak over each other/at the same time. It’s so hard for someone with hearing problems to keep up with everything that’s being said. Our brains have to work twice as hard to differentiate sounds.
– background noise is also a nightmare for people with hearing loss. It’s hard enough trying to understand what’s being said to you, but when your brain is picking up on other noises, it makes it so much harder.
– when out in a pub or restaurant with your deaf buddy, try to pick tables that have a wall behind some of the seats and ensure your friend gets one of these. Sitting with a wall behind you rather than the whole pub/restaurant limits the amount of “external” noise going in your deaf friend’s direction. Therefore, it will be easier for them to hear.
– try to ensure your deaf friend is included in the conversation when out with a group. It’s incredibly isolating being deaf sometimes and if they’re being quiet in a group situation, it’s probably because they’re struggling to hear.
– it’s worth remembering that the bigger a room, the taller the ceiling and the “emptier” it is (for example has a lack of carpets, curtains, big objects) the harder it is for people with hearing problems to hear. Small, cosy rooms are winners for us cloth ears.
– assistant dogs for the deaf & hard of hearing wear burgundy coats (just thought I’d add that as is worth knowing).
– NHS hearing aids are amazing. Without mine, I wouldn’t easily be able to work, socialise, hear music or hear my daughter laugh. They have given me my hearing back for free. Long live the NHS.
– most of us hate using phones. Contact us using any other method if possible.
– feedback on our hearing aids are a nightmare and incredibly unpleasant. Bear this is mind if you get too close to them (hugs are fine for example, just not with your head resting on our ears). Shouting and any sudden loud noise can also cause feedback.
– we can’t get our hearing aids wet. There’s amazing (and expensive) little computers inside them. Computers don’t like getting wet. That’s why you might see us swiftly getting our umbrellas out at the first sign of rain. So no spontaneously chucking us into the pool on holiday, OK?
-deafness seems to be the last remaining disability some people think it’s ok to make fun of. Maybe rethink mocking your hard of hearing friend for their disability.
– please don’t equate deafness with stupidity. You’d be surprised how often this happens. We’re not stupid, we just didn’t catch what you said.
– please don’t get frustrated if we ask you to repeat what you said. I know it’s not fun having to repeat yourself, but it’s a lot less fun being deaf. We haven’t chosen to have bad hearing, we promise we’re not mishearing you on purpose. It would make our lives a lot easier if we didn’t have to ask people to repeat themselves. Thanking you.
-never EVER say “it doesn’t matter”. What a deaf person gets from that is “you’re not important enough to repeat myself for”
– don’t be afraid to ask us anything about our hearing issues. The more people are aware of deafness issues, the better it is for everyone.
Please feel free to share this post, to help raise awareness.