Speaking and communicating to a deaf/hard of hearing person can be pretty scary! Even I as a deaf person can say that but don't panic!
Here's what you can do when you first meet a deaf/hard of hearing person!
- Dont Panic! - I said it before and I'll say it again! Don't panic! Take a deep breath! A deaf/hard of hearing person is not trying to catch you out or embarass you. Chances are, they are letting you know of their impairment to prevent an embarassing situation for you both and to help you as well as themselves to communicate well and effectively.
- Be patient! - This applies to both you and the deaf/hard of hearing person. If you haven't understood what they said, tell them. Likewise, repeat what you have said to help them too. Try not to get angry or fustrated...deaf/hard of hearing people pick up on this and it can make them upset or very shy! Remember, you're trying to help each other!
- Speak clearly. - Don't change how you speak or over-exaggerate like this "CAN...YOU...HEAR...ME?!" By keeping your voice natural and to your normal rhythm, it gives the deaf/hard of hearing person a chance to learn your mouth and speech pattern and it will help them quicker.
- Don't shout! - shouting what you're saying is just rude, no matter how fustrating it may be and it doesnt achieve anything!
- Try to let them lipread you at all times - Don't keep turning your head away, looking around, covering your mouth, look down, talk whilst chewing/eating/drinking. Try facing them square on, it is very difficult to lipread a face side on.
- Get a pen and paper - If you're still struggling or panicking...it's ok to write what you're saying down. Many deaf/hard of hearing won't get offended, rather we would respect you and admire that you taken the time to help us understand! You can even write what you're saying down as a text on your phone and show them, chances are they will reply in the same manner and hey pesto! Easier communication!
- Ultimately communicate as as you would with a hearing person where is possible. You just need a little more patience and a litle more awareness that is all!
This should help when you meet a deaf/hard of hearing person in a first time encounter. Just don't panic!
Deaf and hard of hearing people are some of the friendliest people I know!
There will be more Deaf Guides to come in the future so keep an eye out!
What you think? Anything else you like to know? feel free to ask me!