Listening to the Deaf

A random search on the university websites had lead me to an interesting workshop being run at the university – Deaf awareness training. As someone who knew a few people using hearing aids and the accompanying difficulties they go through on a daily basis, my curiosity was piqued. I wanted to learn more about deaf people and to hopefully learn how to better communicate with them.

The workshop was an eye opining experience, not only did I get to learn that there are different levels of hearing in that there are:
1) Deaf people – people who may have been born deaf, may not use hearing aids and possess a deaf identity that they are comfortable with. Use of sign language to communicate. Majority able to lip read.

2) Hard of Hearing (HOH)  – people who may through an accident or illness become deaf and use hearing aids. Such people are not so confident in their deaf identity. Use of sign language to communicate. Some able to lip read.

3) Deaf/blind Dual sensory – people who are born with one or both senses missing and struggle very much. Yet, they are slightly more comfortable with their identity.

Deaf people struggle, in that they sometimes find it difficult to gain employment and if they do, they are unable to communicate effectively with their colleagues, they often feel isolated because they cannot join in the gossip or “banter” and struggle in big groups where multiple individuals are speaking. Thus, they are more comfortable in 1 on 1 situations.

I will share the most important points of the workshop to give everyone a brief idea of deaf/hard of hearing people and the best ways to communicate with them.

Causes of Deafness:

  1. Genetics – only 10 % of deaf people have deaf parents
  2. Accident/Injury
  3. Noise exposure – earphones and nightclubs just exarcerbate the problem
  4. Illness/Meningitis – Commonly takes place during childhood. Such individuals have known what speech sounds like and so are able to speak clearly with appropriate sentence structure.
  5. Age  – I believe most of us know someone, either a family member or a neighbor that found it increasingly hard to hear as they got older. It happens to everyone and while its easy to lose patience, remember its equally if not more frustrating for them. (I have definitely been guilty of this)

10 Golden rules of Communication:

  1. Stand in good light –
    for deaf/hard of hearing people trying to read your lips
  2. Face the person –
    I have been guilty for sure of talking to someone who is hard of hearing while facing the other way, they get frustrated and so do you because you have to repeat yourself.
  3. Stop talking if you have to turn your face away –
    essentially the same point as above
  4. Give the topic of conversation first –
    just makes it so much easier for deaf/HOH people to understand what you will be talking about.
  5. Reduce background noise –
    when engaging in conversation, try to ensure that there’s no music playing or loud conversations, hearing aids help, but sometimes do not allow for distinction between different kinds of noise, requiring effort from the individual
  6. Rephrase rather than repeat –
    trying to say the same thing is frustrating for both parties, especially when the deaf/HOH person is trying to lip read, you will get nowhere
  7. Use the loop if appropriate –
    its a special piece of technology that can be found in banks, post offices and such places which amplifies sound.
  8. Try a range of communication methods
    even if you don’t succeed or think you look silly, deaf/HOH people will appreciate the fact you tried.
  9. Do not shout!
    Shouting or speaking really slowly will only distort the lip movement, increasing the difficulty of lip reading
  10. Finally, be patient and make the effort

Deaf/HOH people do not understand the grammatical use of the language like people who have been speaking and so can sometimes speak in what appears to be an odd manner.

An example being : Scooter my not good. Fix a lot money happy not me (I’ve had problems with my scooter. It was going to cost a lot of money to repair which I was unhappy with.

I also learnt first hand how hard lip reading was, allowing me to empathize with the difficulties they face.

If you would like to test your skill, with a partner, one person puts on ear plugs and tries to read the lips of the partner who is reading out a sentence, then switch over and try again
Section 1: Mouth the single words

Section 2: Mouth the sentence: 
Where is the homework due?

Section 3: Mouth the longer sentence without using your voice, but try rephrasing, using gestures, body language or any props. 
I am going for holiday tomorrow, can you please take care of home and feed my cat while I am away?

A final note on sign language: every country has its own unique form. If you really want to learn sign language, simply search online for your countries own sign language

I hope the information I have given you helps in your trying to communicate with deaf/HOH people. Give them a little bit patience and love and they will appreciate the effort.

Till next time!

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