There is often a communication barrier between people who are hearing and people who are deaf or hard of hearing. But our differences shouldn't keep us from communicating with each other. Here are a few tips on communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.
1. Body Positioning
When you are speaking, make sure to position yourself facing the person who is deaf or hard of hearing. This will mean they have the ability to lip-read and/or pick up on your emotions. Also make sure that you aren't too far away from the person you are speaking to. It will be more difficult for a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to understand you if you're standing on the other side of the room or with your back turned.
If you are asked to repeat yourself, don't get frustrated. You also don't need to simplify what you are saying. Instead, ensure that you are speaking clearly and not mumbling, position yourself to face each other and repeat yourself again. Don't just say 'never mind', 'don't worry', 'it's not about you', or something similar. People find this rude and it will make them feel isolated and left out.
Be aware of your environment. If there is a lot of background noise, it may be difficult for a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to hear you speaking. Try to eliminate any background noise, whether it be muting the TV, turning down the stereo, or moving to a quieter location. If the noise can't be eliminated, be prepared to repeat yourself, speak up or try writing things down.
Make sure you have the deaf or hard-of-hearing person's attention before you start speaking. Make sure that they are looking at you and aware that you are speaking to them. If they are facing away from you, lightly tap them on the shoulder and make sure that they are ready.
5. Body Movement and Gestures
Make sure you don't cover mouth with your hands while speaking, it can make it very difficult for someone who may be lip reading to understand you. Make sure to keep eye contact and avoid looking away and turning your head to look behind you so you remain facing the other person.
Most importantly, remember to be patient. Don't get frustrated with someone if they need you to repeat yourself. Understand that it is more frustrating for them. Having patience, speaking clearly and making eye contact are small steps that you can take to make communication smooth. And don't give up! We promise that communicating with deaf and hard-of-hearing people is totally worth it.