here is part 2/2 of the "I can't hear you well"
I thought it would be a great idea to introduce you to some parameters about how to communicate with D/deaf people.
As I stated in my previous post, there are 4 types of deafness : mild, moderate, severe and profound. People have a misconception about deafness. They often think : Deaf = 100% profondly deaf = mute. And they often forget the people in the middle.
Some with a moderate hearing loss will hear high frequency better, other the opposite... There are so many details, not 2 deaf people will hear/not hear EXACTLY the same. Also, there are different "terms" : D/deaf/Hard of Hearing people (I include any type of deafness). It varies from person to person depending on their experience, culture, and so on! Deafness being invisible, it is easy to forget the basic parameters to take into account to facilitate communication.
Before going a little more in depth into the subject, let us recall the basic definition of the term DEAF (according to the CNRTL, a French source): “a person whose perception of the sound is disturbed, who is deprived of the sense of hearing or who is suffering from a lowering (one-sided or two-sided) hearing that prevents hearing certain sounds.” However, the person may hear a sound, noise but she/he may have difficulty with distinguishing them, to locate them, the message may be deformed. For someone with a moderate hearing loss, sometimes it is like hearing someone speaking in a foreign language.
Depending on the degree of deafness, some parameters and mode of communication are privileged. The following non-exhaustive list is based on my own experience as a deaf person (moderate hearing loss) and to avoid offending anyone, I will say “I” or “Me” :
- Speak in front of me and do not hide your mouth (with your hand or other objects), as this prevents lip reading, I may need to rely on your lips to support my understanding.
- Avoid talking from another room because it’s very annoying, I sometimes don’t “understand” what you are saying, I make you repeat but without success so I have to come to you (while I was busy doing something) and ask you to repeat for the umpteenth time. Simply come to me.
- You do not need to call my name 5 times, get close to me or wave your hand or gently tap my shoulder to get my attention.
- Articulate in a reasonable way.
- Slightly increase the volume of your voice but needless to yell.
- Also avoid whispering, it is very unpleasant… or if necessary, whisper very close to my ear.
- Be patient and remember that it is not my fault, I don’t do this to bother you and seeing you being annoyed due to repetition will only tense the conversation and build a gap between you and me.
If you come across a Deaf person who signs, use gestures or mimes will show an effort on your willingness to maintain the conversation. A pen and paper are an excellent support for maintaining a conversation if sign language is her/his mode of communication but you do not know it. In writing, be clear and concise, use sketch if necessary.
Fun fact, in France, I read and witnessed this many times, when a Deaf person orders food at the restaurant and explains she/he is Deaf, suddenly, the vendor starts speaking English (“THAT, YES”) before realizing that it is useless!
There is one more thing I would love you to consider if you know a D/deaf person: please please please, play down the situation by making thing easier and not mocking. Especially young children. They need to be reassured.
I so wish when I was in school I could have seen posters about deafness and how wearing hearing aids is not a big deal (which is exactly like wearing glasses).
Do you have any D/deaf friends or relatives ? Have you ever encountered a D/deaf person ? Do you experience a hearing loss (or a "deaf gain")? I would love to hear your experience ! Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org !