Category Archives: coping strategies

Gestures

thumbs-up

I teach a speechreading class at different senior centers through my work with the state. Every time I teach the class I learn a thing or two. It might be lip shapes of certain letters clicking in my brain at long last. It might be something I need to work on such as saying ‘zero’ instead of ‘oh’ when working with numbers. In life outside the classroom it was rephrasing which I brought back to my students. This last fall I learned how much gestures aid communication.

It’s a lesson in our book which I helped edit a year or so ago. The lesson is in there but I hadn’t given it credit until I watched my seniors struggle to learn lipreading. The more we relax, the easier lipreading gets but my students weren’t able to relax. They stared intently, not able to pick up the words in ‘lip speak’ (no voice). With the younger crowd I taught everyone the ASL alphabet and we used finger spelling for hints but my seniors weren’t picking up that up either. I sensed frustration so I encouraged them to use gestures if they saw the puzzled looks.

At first they felt awkward, but after a few lessons of using gestures they became more comfortable with the idea. Then they started picking up the words faster, so fast I was amazed. Soon it became common practice with us and it introduced laughter. What happens when a speechreading class becomes fun? They relax. We still focus on the lips but gestures are now a habit for us.

My husband didn’t want to learn sign so much, although he learned the ASL alphabet to help me with words and names I was stuck on which was valuable to our communication. (Thank you Ken!) All along Ken also used gestures when I was stuck. I laugh at his creativity but it works! And if I laugh the strain on my end disappears. I hadn’t given his gestures proper credit before teaching my class last fall and now I value it. I encourage it in all my classes and will be including it in my presentations too.

This takes me back to my first HLAA convention in Rhode Island. I went to lunch with several women. One used sign as she talked. Another used a PockeTalker pointing a microphone at whoever was talking without fear. Another lady had a hearing dog beside her. Facial expressions seemed more animated and I remember a few gestures thrown in too. At the end of the lunch, one of them told me something like, “Use everything, why not? If it helps, do it.” That lunch in 2012 left a big impression on me. (Thanks Nini!)

Communication is easier with gestures.  Let’s all get animated in our conversations and encourage those in our life to use them as well. Perhaps if we use them ourselves others might too. People pick that kind of thing up uncousciously, plus it’s fun! Gestures are helpful in communicating with the hard of hearing, it deserves more credit.

The Steps to Coping with Hearing Loss

presentation

Part of my job is going to senior centers; to teach a speechreading class, have a table at their health fair or give presentations. Recently a senior center requested a presentation on coping strategies for hearing loss, mostly because the program director herself has a hearing loss and isn’t sure what to do. The idea rolled around in my head for about a week before I could put it to paper. There are the obvious coping strategies;

  1. Face me when you talk. Mostly I tell people “I lipread” these days which usually works great for me.
  2. Get my attention before talking. If this would be done each time, there would be a lot less repeats. Just because I’m in the same room doesn’t mean I’m going to hear you because I need to see your face first to hear.
  3. If after one repeat I still don’t understand then rephrase or add gestures. Gestures can be a huge help.
  4. No talking from other rooms. If someone wants to start a conversation that person, hard of hearing or not, will go to the other person to talk.

talking

Those four little rules will benefit a hard of hearing person a great deal. I added a couple more that aren’t as obvious.

  1. Think ahead. What will you need to hear better and enjoy in certain socializing situations? Will it be taking a friend who can help you hear? Or taking another hard of hearing person who understands? Will you need an FM system and get permission to hook it up to the microphone that will be used? Show up early to get the front seat? Taking your living room loop to the Super Bowl party? Captions? etc.
  2. Take a class geared toward hearing loss. Find a lipreading class or an ASL class. Attend any workshop you can that has to do with hearing loss. HLAA has free webinars monthly, check them out too.
  3. Join a support group. The SayWhatClub is a great resource for anyone who has access online. They have email lists and Facebook groups, choose the method you like best and join. Why? They are instant support for the bad times, good for ranting about the hearing world but mostly for the friendship and role models you’ll find. It’s finding your tribe of people. Then see if there’s a local HLAA or ALDA chapter near you because being with others who have hearing loss makes you feel good. Go to as many hearing loss conventions as you can for more friendships!

plan-ahead

I am including in my presentation 3 more items that aren’t commonly considered coping strategies as far as I know but I believe they are the basis for everything I listed above.

Get out of the closet, quit hiding your hearing loss. Get it out in the open and start telling people you have a hearing loss. Before we come out of the closet we use bad coping strategies; faking it, bluffing, talking so we don’t have to hear and the deaf nod. This may cause hearing people to think, “She’s losing it. That answer is off the wall.” And, “She’s kind of slow, she doesn’t talk much.” Then there’s the snobby conclusion, “She’s really stuck up. She didn’t stop to talk to me when I called out to her.” A good coping strategy is being upfront about hearing loss and your needs. It’s freeing to let it all out and later on you’ll realize hiding it was a lot more work. Wouldn’t you rather people know it was your broken ears, not a damaged brain? It’s hearing loss, she didn’t hear me instead of being stuck up and unfriendly. Doing this will open a new line of communication with others.

upfront

Educate yourself about hearing loss. Without knowing exactly how your hearing loss works, you can’t describe it to others and they won’t understand our needs as well. Do you have a regular ski slope hearing loss? A reverse slope? A cookie bite? Conductive? Mixed? What exactly does having that hearing loss mean to you when it comes to speech, has an audiologist ever told you? Do you need volume? Less volume, more clarity? Do you hear a man’s voices better or a woman’s? The more you know about your hearing loss the more you can address your needs specifically.

If you wear hearing aids or CI’s, how much do you know about them? What are their benefits and limitations? Do you know all the programs they offer? (Background noise, tinnitus relief, telecoil, Bluetooth, etc.) Find books on hearing loss and read all you can.

After that, learn all you can about assistive listening devices. Browse websites, order free catalogs and ask people who attend hearing loss support groups (they are the best resource). Ask for assistive listening devices in theaters, at the movies, at sporting events at church and anywhere you go. Do they have volume control headphones or captioning devices? Which ones benefit you most? Ask because while you’re asking you’re also educating other people about hearing loss.

Stick up for yourself. Stop worrying about burdening other people. Communication is a two way street. It’s up to us to advocate for ourselves and the people in our lives should be able to meet us halfway. My part is paying attention. If I’m stuck on a word and I’m doing my best there should never, ever be an eye roll, a “never mind” or “I SAID…” If you’ve done your job learning about hearing loss, then you’re armed with knowledge, let them have it! I recommend trying to be nice about it. There’s assertive and then there’s aggressive. No one likes being yelled at. Remember communication habits are hard to break (start now!) so have patience but be consistent. There are times when getting mad makes the point but use is sparingly. I made a good impression on my family after getting a “never mind” once too often by hitting the roof. They never said it again. I’m not proud when I lose it, even when it works.

stick-up-for-yourselfThese are steps to success with hearing loss.  There will still be pitfalls, tears and possible tantrums but there will be less of them.  Plus these steps help end the isolation many feel that comes with hearing loss.

Auditory Fatigue

All three hearing loss organizations in the US have their good points. I love my local HLAA chapter for its face to face meetings. A few weeks ago they had Susan Naidu, an audiologist at the University of Utah talk about auditory fatigue, also called listener fatigue and cognitive energy fatigue. She works with patients in the clinic, trains graduate students to become audiologists and her favorite thing to do is aural rehabilitation therapy. She was happy to talk about auditory fatigue because “it’s a very real phenomenon, it’s a real condition but it’s not discussed much and not researched enough.” It isn’t clinically recognized but many professionals are familiar with it.

tired again

Auditory fatigue doesn’t mean people are dumb because they can’t listen, it’s the “energy it takes to fulfill the complexity of listening because listening requires more to go on in your brain in order to comprehend what you’re listening to.” Ian Noon wrote about this in his piece on the Limping Chicken out of the United Kingdom only he called it concentration fatigue. Noon says: “I went to a great conference today. It was riveting and I was hooked on pretty much every word. And then I got home and collapsed on the sofa. I’m not just tired, I’m shattered. I’ve had to turn my ears off to rest in silence and my eyes are burning. I’ve also had about 3 cups of tea just to write this paragraph.”

Susan introduced us to Kathleen Fuller’s work on hearing loss and cognitive energy. Kathleen asks: “How can audiologists better understand and find ways to counteract the factors underlying why listeners may decide to quit participating in activities because it takes too much effort to listen? How can audiologists help listeners to strategically deploy their available cognitive capacity in situations where it is hard to listen? How can audiologists prevent listeners from avoiding situations and withdrawing from social participation because it is too hard to listen?… It’s said we hear with our ears and listen with our brain now we add when and how much effort we expend during listening in everyday life depends on our motivation to achieve goals and attain rewards of personal and/or social value.”

Listening takes effort. It’s not only being able to hear but being able to pull all the components together to communicate properly. It’s being able to understand language, generating an appropriate response and being able to keep it going back and forth to make a conversation. Usually people aren’t just listening either, they are multitasking; washing the dishes, walking, watching TV, etc.

For those with hearing loss it takes even more effort. Not only are they taking in the above but they are trying to decode the message. Add in being visually aware to compensate such as speechreading and body language. The mind races to fill in blank spots in words and conversations which involves guess work. The mental process is “I’m not hearing well enough. I have to do something and physically push the brain to listen better.” After an hour (or less) these people are really tired and experience discomfort, pain and numbness.

 

What makes listening even more difficult? Noise, it’s the number one complaint for those coming into Susan’s clinic. Trying to filter and ignore noise makes listening harder for hearing people and difficult for the hard of hearing. Even with modern technology in hearing aids such as directional microphones and noise reduction programs noise remains a problem. Restaurants are an example, bars and traffic. (Hearing in cars has never been easy!)

What other things become hard with this much cognitive energy being spent? Remembering things get harder because with so much going on in the mind already, it’s hard to find a place to stash the information. People may have a hard time remembering names because there’s more focus to understand what’s being said. While in a meeting they can be so intent on understanding the words as they are being said that half the meeting information is forgotten.

Because of the intense concentration, hard of hearing employees end up taking more days off. The mental stress affects their bodies causing illness among some. Or to balance out, they stay home evenings and weekends to recuperate, avoiding social activity. For those who don’t work, many tend to withdraw because it’s too much work going to that party, the play or lecture. It’s easier to stay home and watch TV with captions. It’s not worth it in the end, the struggle is too much.

tired

Mohan Matthen is studying why some hard of hearing people are more successful at socializing than others. He thinks it might be a pleasure factor. When audiologists diagnose hearing loss and fit people with hearing aids they tend to talk about adverse conditions. What if they talked about positive things instead? If a person can exhibit more pleasure in the role of listening they might be more relaxed and less stressed out. Once it becomes pleasurable their listening effort seems to be reduced. No matter how hard it seems, seek listening enjoyment. Make it fun and shoot for positive because the reward will be “I will understand.”

So what helps combat this fatigue?

Advocating helps a great deal. What do you need to make this meeting better? CART (live captioning)? Sitting closer to the presenter? Assistive listening devices? One speaker at a time? Don’t talk while multitasking? There’s a lot to be said for planning ahead as well. Think about the environment, talk to the event coordinators, find out if the venue has assistive listening devices such as the CaptiView at theaters or live captioned performances. If you’re going to a lecture/workshop/convention, talk to those in charge well in advance to see what might be set. Some people report learning speechreading has helped lighten their fatigue. Visiting with people a few at time instead of large groups. Limit interruptions, have a quiet room to talk to family members at large gatherings. Ask for background noises (music or TV) to be turned down or off. Go outside to eat because break rooms usually have lousy acoustics. Take hearing breaks and read instead of watching TV. Arrange for hand signals when conversation needs to be slowed down or when wanting someone to talk louder. Find out what works for you and advocate for yourself. It’s okay to experiment with it all.

The presenter validated what most of feel almost daily, I’m so glad I attended.  I don’t shy away from social situations often, I even attend noisy ones without much thought although occasionally I refuse to go because I’m already tired. If I’m that tired I’ve learned from experience I won’t have the energy needed to make the best of the situation staying home instead. Knowing when not to venture out has saved me a few meltdowns.

I also know when to get CART, when ALDs will work, or not, and it’s even helped to know I’ll fail from time to time. I now analyze my bad times to find ways to make it better next time. 

Advocating for myself has made a tremendous difference in my social pleasure. I tell people up front I lipread, they need to face me or get my attention before talking. Most people are good and will comply and some very interesting conversations have followed.

More links on auditory fatigue.

Studies done on prolonged exposure to audio stimulus (for those who want to go deeper). This phenomenon occurs after an extended period of time listening to speech and happens to hearing people as well. Hearing people have more problems than expected which might be related to an auditory processing disorder. Susan said those with hearing loss all have auditory processing disorders.

Richard Gurgel is studying the relationship of hearing loss and dementia. Are individuals with diagnosed mild dementia experiencing decline in auditory processing? Older individuals who have hearing loss but didn’t have hearing aids showed improvements once aided, not just in quality of life but in skills. People were thinking they had dementia when they didn’t.

Starkey on listening fatigue.

Amplification study. Amplification has limited improvement for those with a steep slope high frequency hearing loss.

Susan recommends the LACE (Listening And Communication Enhancement) Program, it improves listening skills.

More publications by Mohan Matthen on hearing loss and displeasure.

The Ditto

I got the Ditto about a month ago, curious to try things out that might help the hard of hearing.

ditto

picture from pc world

The Ditto is an alerting devices for phone calls (I rarely do the phone), incoming texts, email and more.  It has a good, strong vibrate for such a little thing and it has several options of vibrating patterns.  I had a few people ask me why I wanted to try this because our phones alert us in several ways.  So here’s my deal…

My phone is always silenced.  Any noise that I can hear from any distance is going to be LOUD and obnoxious.  When it’s that loud, it scares me half to death when it goes off.  I have a flash alert set instead which works when I’m near the phone and remember to place it face down so I can see the flash.  If I’m out and about, it’s in my purse or in a pocket unless I’m expecting a text then I’ll carry it in my hand, hopefully face down to see the flash.  This makes me pretty attached to my phone and my hands full at times.  It might be nice having the Ditto but I didn’t expect to like it much because it is Bluetooth and drains the battery on my phone.

 

I tried it out driving to the SayWhatClub convention in Boise at the beginning of August.  I kept it plugged into the car charger.  It was nice to know when texts were coming in and I knew to look when I stopped.  Then I wore it the next day because I kind of liked not having my phone in my hands all the time.  I tried it in the pool (it’s water proof) at the hotel.  It seemed to lose the bluetooth connection and the ‘tether’ alert would go off.  (Tether is an alert designed to tell you when you are too far away from your phone or forgot it somewhere.)  That night I went out on the Boise Brew Cruise I kept it on (charging my phone before I left).   The cruise took us to 3 Boise brew pubs and my phone and the Ditto kept up.

So I started wearing the Ditto more because at the convention not only do I have my family/friends texting as normal but we attendees also start texting each other for information on activities and such.  I’m also charging my phone a lot more but I don’t mind because it’s useful for me.

At home I continued to wear it because I liked not carrying my phone around with me.  I wore it at work so I didn’t get behind on texts, mostly what’s going on at home and things can happen fast at home.  Yesterday I forgot to take it to work with me and I missed it.  I’ll have to start tucking it into a purse pocket.

I don’t use it all the time because sometimes I like having a break from my phone or maybe I’m not doing anything more than watching TV so I can check my phone.  I’m glad I have the device though, it’s frees my hands up and I can forget about my phone for a while confident I’ll get the alert.

The only time the vibrate freaked me out is when I was in the backyard with the bees.  My husband has a hive of bees and bees can freak me out.  The bees were thirsty, zooming back and forth in the yard looking for water.  I was trying to get some toys out of the shed for my grandsons while keeping my cool.  My tether alert went off and I did this freaky dance in the yard slapping at my collar-bone while turning a circle.  It took me a few seconds to figure it was the Ditto and gather my wits again.  It probably looked funny but the 5 yr old and 1 yr old didn’t catch the humor.  They were just looking at me crazy like wondering what I was going to do next.

* Texting is my main mode of communication.  I think in an average month I send and receive around 2,000 texts.  My record is around 4,000 and that was about 4 years ago.

 

Are you gambling with communication?

Bluffing – “To engage in a false display of confidence or aggression in order to deceive or intimidate someone.” Google bluffing and watch gambling come up. Are you gambling with communication?

bluffing 1

Bluffing is the first coping strategy we pick up as hard of hearing. I don’t think we are aggressive in nature and probably most are the complete opposite being more in the passive range. We bluff to pass as normal (whatever that is). We bluff to make others think we are keeping up with conversation when we aren’t. The consensus seems to be three repeats and if we don’t understand it, we resort to bluffing. Why? Because we are embarrassed. By three times we should have heard it. What’s wrong with our hearing aids? We paid good money for them and we still can’t understand what people say? We also dread the question, “Are your ears on?”

Instead of asking for another repeat at number three (or even better, a rephrase) we judge the other person’s tone, body language and facial features for clues, then come up with a one or two word answer to fit the question. I could say the word “wow” in several ways to fit what I saw and I got by with it until my ex-husband started outing me. He knew my whole routine and would laugh. He’d tell the other person, “She didn’t understand a word you said.”

How dare he?! If I wanted to bluff, it was my right, only he kept outting me, giving me no other choice. Part of me hated him for it but another part was grateful. Every time the other person, be it friend or salesman, would apologize, back up and look at me to repeat. It worked so I didn’t complain too much. After awhile I learned to beat him to the punch instead, “I’m hard of hearing and couldn’t understand what you said.” At least I did when it really mattered to me.

The rest of the time I went right along bluffing sometimes at work and sometimes while running errands. Not everyone needed to know I was hard of hearing. Being a hairdresser, half my clients wanted to talk at me and required little response… usually. Sometimes I read the person wrong and came up with the wrong “wow.” Seeing their surprised look I back peddled, finally admitting I was hard of hearing and could they repeat that since I misunderstood. I might even show them my hearing aid to prove it.

It took joining the SWC in the late 90’s to get over bluffing most of the time. All these years later, however, I still bluff at places like the bank because most of the time they are asking about the weather or wanting to know how I want my cash back. I also do it at the grocery store where the typical questions are:

  • Did you find everything okay?
  • Paper or plastic?
  • Stamps or ice?

Later I learned this as the coping strategy “prediction” so it’s not really bluffing. Or is it?

Out of curiosity, I asked my SWC friends how they broke their bluffing habit. Here’s some of their responses:

  • I broke it after joining SWC, said another person.
  • “Bluff? I found it easier to be antisocial until I embraced my hearing loss.”
  • “I developed new ways to communicate after joining SWC. I learned from others experiences.”
  • Someone else said “I’m deeply entrenched in the habit. I don’t want to disrupt the flow of conversation.
  • Another friend said, “I entertain people with what I thought I heard. I’m okay with faking in a crowd as long as I don’t have to give my opinion. If I want to know I ask later. I do not bluff in a one on one conversation.”
  • “I’m tired of telling people I’m hard of hearing.”
  • One friend said, “I can always ask later if I want to know what was said.”
  • “I bluff when I’m too tired and can’t cope anymore. It’s too much work to hear.”
  • “I hate hearing the words, Never mind.”

There are a lot of reasons why and when we bluff. Many of us stop bluffing as much after joining a support group. With support comes more ideas and courage to tell it like it is. Hearing aids are imperfect and while they help it doesn’t compare to normal hearing. We learn to tell people what hurts and hope they make positive changes.

My husband called me out for bluffing a few years ago. He came in while I was typing something at my computer. He said, “yadda yadda yadd.” I didn’t look up and replied “Uh huh.” He stood on the other side of my desk pointing a finger at me. “You just bluffed. That’s the same to me as never mind is to you!” I stopped typing and stared at him. (Why did I hear that and not what he said?) His answer blew me away. I hit the roof anytime someone tells me “never mind” (he’s experienced it) and here he felt the same way over bluffing. Is that really the way the hearing people close to us view bluffing? To be fair, he should have got my attention first before talking…but I did bluff.

While it is a coping strategy, it isn’t the best one and we miss many things and we may agree to the wrong thing with the deaf nod.. But sometimes we are tired. When I’m tired I fall back on bluffing. Auditory fatigue is real.

Prediction is another strategy and can be confused with bluffing. At the grocery store the clerk might ask that odd question and then I back peddle. Other times I nod in encouragement because I’m waiting to see if I understand the rest of the conversation before stopping them to ask for a repeat. My brain might fill in the missing pieces and understand the second half. I wait because about the time I ask them to repeat, my brain already filled in the missing slots and I understand so I learned to have patience.

I’m not going to say stop bluffing because I haven’t fully stopped myself. I have cut way, way back compared to those early days. I used to be embarrassed but I’m not anymore. I have a different way of communicating, why should I be ashamed?

Many, many people withdraw because of hearing loss. There are links to dementia for that sort of withdrawal from society. I had a grandma who helped build a senior center in a small town, she knew many people and was social until she got diabetes. She changed her whole life because of that diagnosis and the downhill turn was alarming. I don’t think it’s just hearing loss that makes people withdraw from society, people have too many reasons why they can’t do it anymore. They can do it. You can do it because if I can, you can. It’s an obstacle from the normal (there’s that word again) not the end of the world. There are ways around those obstacles if you choose. The answers above suggest joining a support group helps a great deal. Join SWC, join a local hearing loss chapter. Get to know others, make new friends and find new goals. I find my life very enjoyable these days in spite of hearing loss and maybe even because of it.

Meet My Friend (Blank)

Chelle, this is my friend (Blank)… (Blank) meet Chelle.

forgot your name

Conversation continues after introductions so I don’t stop to ask for a repeat.  I’m trying to keep up with words and names don’t seem as important right away.  Then again, names are important.  When I see them again I’m embarrassed when they remember my name and I don’t know theirs.  I can lipread some names because they are common but other names are different.  Other times I miss most of the letters in their name because it’s out of my sound range.  This is typical for a lot of hard of hearing people.

Ken helps me sometimes by finger spelling the names before or after meeting someone.  Last summer I made it a point to understand the names of several new camp mates by telling them I was about deaf.  (I didn’t want them thinking I was snob when I didn’t answer them also.)  They all faced me and we repeated names until I got them right.  That worked but I haven’t done it since.

I put the question to Facebook friends and they came up with a lot of good answers.

  • Have them write the name down. Carry a notebook and pen or get them to type it out on your phone.  My friend Susan said she needs it written down or she gets frustrated with the repeats also.  Another friend Michele agreed with this. She said the more they repeated their name the more panicked she became, now tells people, “This isn’t working, let’s try something else.”  Several of us agreed it’s easier to see names written. Maybe we should always wear name tags?
  • Ask them to spell it out.  This can work but sometimes I get stuck on letters so for me this isn’t a sure thing either.
  • Drawing the letters in the air or on a desk.
  • Michele says she might put the ball in their court and asks them to suggest something to help her understand their name.  What a creative suggestion. Sometimes a rhyme helps.  Chelle Belly as kids called me in grade school though I was stick thin.  Or sometimes I tell people Chelle, it’s short for Michelle.
  • Eleanor said “Ask for a business card.”  Wow.  That’s a great suggestion. I know I have one I can hand out to people so others must have them too.  Rosie says people in other cultures have ‘visiting cards’ and hand them out to people as they call on them.
  • Cheri says if there’s a list of attendees for an event, she’ll ask to look at it before hand.
  • Another great suggestion came from Jan.  She takes a picture of the people she meets and puts them in her phone right away.
  • Finger spelling came up a few times.  Ken has a hard time learning sign language but he can handle the alphabet and that has helped a great deal. A lot of people have learned the manual alphabet at some point so maybe we can ask.

Another common factor came up through all the replies.  A lot of us fake or bluff when it comes to names.  Henry was upfront about this.  He says he can never remember names.  Amy agreed.  She says she does the vague “Have you met….” and hopes the other person fills in the blank.  Henry also says it helps to remember the face, then we can get away with all sort of “shenanigans.”  He also uses Mrs. Miss or Madam as needed.  I called bluffing and he agreed.  “We are great poker players, aren’t we?”

As I thanked everyone for the comments on Facebook, I brought up how hard it is for me to recognize people.  It feels like another disability as  I cannot remember faces either. I have to see them several times and/or make some kind of mental connection before I can remember who they are.  Henry brought up a an article written by  Oliver Sacks, M.D. who had issues remembering faces too.  Just in case you have these issues too, read Face-Blind.  After reading that article, I was glad it’s only faces I have a hard time with.  Knock on wood, I have an excellent sense of direction and can remember places I’ve been.

I love a group effort, it turns into team work.  Sharing their ideas is what it’s all about.  I’ll try working on new habits myself made by the suggestions of all my friends.  Thank you. I feel like I know some of the best people on earth due to hearing loss.

Talking to a Hard Of Hearing Person

Talking to a hard of hearing person is easy!  Follow these communication guidelines to improve conversations and cut back on repeats.

  • Always get the person’s attention first.  Say their name, wave until the person looks at you or tap their shoulder.
  • Face them when talking.  Be within 6 feet for the best listening advantage.
  • Make sure your face is in the light and not in the shadows.  Hard of hearing people use lipreading to some degree.
  • Take care to enunciate.  Speak at a moderate pace and make sure nothing is in your mouth or in front of it.
  • Use gestures and facial expression as every little bit helps.
  • Do not shout.  Shouting distorts words and faces making it hard to understand.

Sometimes hard of hearing people get stuck on a word or phrase.  Instead of repeating the same thing, try rephrasing.   Use a synonym if possible.  Include more facts in the sentence.  If it’s a long list break it up into smaller sentences.

***

-Their new sofa was so comfortable.

“What?”

-Their new couch was very comfortable.

***

-We’re all going to watch a movie on 33rd this afternoon, do you want to come?

“What?”

-Rhonda, Brenda and I are going the movie theater on 3300 south this afternoon.  Do you want to come?

***

-Hello my name is John.  Welcome to our café. Here’s our specials for the day: Stout braised bratwurst, chipotle barbeque pork sandwich and citrus marinated chicken tacos.  Would you like to try any of those?

“What?”

-Our specials are bratwurst, spicy pork sandwich and chicken tacos.

As a hard of hearing person, instead of saying “what” or “say that again” try making these a habit instead:

Can you say that again but in a different way please?

I heard this part (repeat what you heard) but I missed the last part. Can you say that in another way?

Can you slow down and break it into shorter sentences for me?

Tell me more about the chicken tacos.

With a little practice rephrasing becomes second nature.  

rephrase

Could you rephrase that?