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How to communicate with the hearing impaired

Tuesday, September 21, 1999

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Talking louder to a person with a hearing loss may not increase understanding. In fact, it can hamper communication because shouting distorts the sound and mouth movements, making speech-reading more difficult.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, here are some tips on improving communication with those who are hearing impaired.

For the speaker:

Remove obstacles (cigarettes, chewing gum, pipes and food) when speaking.

Realize that beards and mustaches can interfere with the ability to speech-read.

Pay attention to the listener. A puzzled look may indicate misunderstanding.

Face the listener; don't turn away while speaking.

Get the listener's attention first by gently touching the shoulder, raising a finger or some other type of signal. Use appropriate gestures to enhance understanding.

Slow down your speech, but don't exaggerate.

For the listener:

Look at the speaker. Position yourself to get a full view, not just a profile. The sounds most difficult to hear are the easiest to see.

If you're in a noisy environment like a crowded room or store, try to direct the speaker to a quiet area.

Try to eliminate background noises (television, radio, running water, etc.)

Avoid sitting close to walls or other hard surfaces. Sound may bounce off these surfaces.

Move closer to the speaker when possible.

Don't bluff or nod as if you understand when you don't. It is better to ask questions. Repeat or rephrase what you think you heard. This gives the speaker the opportunity to correct any mistakes. "You said you would return soon. Is that right?"

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