"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

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Monday, November 25, 2013

3 Things You Should Never Do When Communicating with the Hearing Impaired by Rachel Strella

I was introduced to Rachel and her husband Pete at a meeting where she was presenting to us the importance of using Social Media for business. We quickly struck up a conversation about hearing loss, hearing aids and insurance. Rachel kindly took me up on my offer to write a guest post, just in time for the holidays. Share these tips with your family, friends and co-workers to help them communicate more effectively during the holidays with friends or loved ones who have hearing loss.

3 Things You Should Never Do When Communicating with the Hearing Impaired

I’ve lived with hearing loss for close to 15 years.  In that time, I’ve had a lot of interesting interactions with folks who learn about my disability. Here are three things that you shouldn’t do to a deaf or hard-of-hearing (HOH) individual.

Shout.  Just because someone has difficulty hearing, does not mean it justifies shouting. Do you want to speak a little louder, slower and clearer than when you interact with others? Yes.  But there is no need to shout.  Clearly communicate what you want to say and be sure to make eye contact with them.

Talk to them in ‘slow-mo.’ Visualize the TV screen when you hit the lowest level on the rewind button of a VCR. That’s talking to someone in slow motion and it’s unhelpful when talking to someone who is deaf or HOH. There is no need to over enunciate or over exaggerate words or expressions. Talk in a normal voice, and again, communicate clearly.

Put them at the kids table.  As the holidays approach, that’s my sarcastic way of saying: don’t avoid people with hearing loss! We want you to communicate with us and we want to feel like a part of the conversation despite our limitations. You might need to speak a little clearer, but that’s certainly no reason to avoid someone with hearing loss.

We have become a society of bad communicators and I’d like to see that change. Consider how well you’re communicating the next time you converse with your spouse while looking in the fridge, talk with your hands in front of your face, or carry a phone conversation while the TV is blaring.

Rachel Strella is the owner of Strella Social Media, a Harrisburg-based company specializing in social media strategy development and management. 

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