Unlike many disabilities that are easy to visually identify, hearing loss is referred to as an invisible disability. Though invisible it is important to be informed about this disability and the best way to accommodate people who struggle with this very common issue. With almost 48 million people in the U.S. alone affected by hearing loss, people’s needs around this condition cannot be stressed more. Below we explore some common issues with people with hearing loss struggle with and some strategies for making their experience as comfortable as possible.
They are not ignoring you
When people suffer from hearing loss, it is common for them to not necessarily pick up everything you are saying. This is particularly true in a noisy environment. If you don’t get the response you expected there is a good chance that the person misunderstood you. Don’t take this miscommunication personally.
In fact, there are certain actions that you can take to help people with hearing loss know when you are trying to communicate so they can focus on hearing you better. For instance, it is important to make sure that someone with hearing loss is looking at you before you speak. If appropriate a gentle touch on the shoulder can help you get the listener’s attention.
It is also important to make sure that your face is in clear view and well lit. Avoid putting your hands over your face or standing in shadows, as many people with hearing disabilities rely on lip reading to supplement what they can’t hear.
Hearing loss is not to be confused with lack of intelligence
It should go without saying that just because someone with hearing loss struggles with conversation this is not a sign of lack of intellect. It is important to amend the way you speak to make it easier for people with hearing issues to have the tools to better understand you.
Try speaking slower and shortening the manner of speech so the listener has time to process speech. This is clearly not a sign of lack of brightness; however, it is common for people with hearing disabilities to struggle with discrimination in school and in the work place. Even though it is illegal to discriminate against hearing disability this doesn’t stop people with hearing loss to be denied jobs and promotions. A recent survey of 141people from Deaf Professional Network found 52% reported being passed over for promotions. 45% reported being aware of having been passed over for promotion more than one time.
Hearing loss can be exhausting
If you do not struggle with hearing loss, it is hard to understand how tiring it can be. As hearing loss develops it is often certain consonants or tones that fade first. People with hearing loss are missing parts of words or sounds, causing the brain to work overtime to fill in the blanks. This is sometimes called listener’s fatigue. A day of conversation can leave people with hearing loss feeling exhausted. Make space for people with hearing disabilities to rest and recharge.
Things that make communication easier
There are certain tools that can make communicating with a someone with a hearing loss, easier for you and the listener. As stated, before it is important to get the listeners attention before speaking. Make sure your face is in clear view. Body language and facial expression are great aids for people who are hearing impaired. It is inevitable that people will ask you to repeat themselves when struggling with hearing. When people do ask you to repeat yourself, try rephrasing what you said rather than repeating the same thing over and over. Often a certain word or tone will be just outside of a person’s listening frequency, making rephrasing essential.
Hearing aids still need accommodations
For those who are new to using hearing aids, it will take some time to get used to the listening experience. Hearing aids are amazing tools which amplify lost sounds and frequencies and cancel background noise. Make sure to take the time to help the people with hearing loss in your life by being aware of these important accommodations. The time and care you take to make sure the people in your life can communicate with you will make a huge difference to them and show that you care.