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EARThis evening I hosted a lecture at the library titled Growing Up Hearing Impaired in response to the myriad of questions well-meaning patrons accost me with while I go about my day. The intended audience was for parents of children with hearing loss or the curious minded. My own mother accompanied me and spoke at the event. Below is the much abbreviated version of the little tips and tricks packet we handed out to the guests. If inquired I will certainly elaborate. No anecdotes in this post tonight, since I am simply weary from the lecture preparations and the speech itself. Whew!

I fist want to reiterate what I told the crowd. Everything listed, a normal hearing person would not think about and that is quite alright. There is no need for them to “consider” these things until confronted with the contrary. Hearing, for the average person, is involuntary such as breathing and blinking. So do not fret too much over the list, but should you know of someone with this invisible disability, do try to “consider” these things from their point of view.

General

  • Face person when speaking, never turn your head to point at something while talking. Refrain from sitting side by side and talking.
  • Maintain eye contact. There is a distinct and peculiar connection between eyes and “hearing.” If a person has donned sunglasses, hearing impaired people typically cannot “hear” them.
  • Enunciate. This does not mean yelling at another person. It means to exaggerate your articulation, but not to a ridiculously comedic effect. In other words, no mumbling. Never whisper into a person’s hearing aid. That is just silly and pointless. Cup your mouth and face them to share a secret, write it down, or better yet, keep it to yourself. No one likes a snitch.
  • Multitasking entails use of all senses. By definition a person who wears hearing aids cannot multitask at the same level as a hearing person. Hearing impaired person FOCUS at what is set before them, surrounding influences and distractions are often lost to them. This is both a blessing and a curse depending on the nature of the interruption.

Clothing/Accessories

  • Millinery is a particular issue. Certain styles lend themselves to enhancing sound, such as a bucket hat from the 1920s and 1930s. Hats that sit low on the head are out of the question. The head-gear knocks up against the hearing aid and it is not only annoying but uncomfortable.
  • Scarves or shawls worn over the ears are immensely problematic. The closeness of the fabric makes the hearing aid screech feedback. When it comes to inclement weather the choice is either do I suffer the weather and hear traffic coming from behind or do I risk my safety and keep my ears warm? A person who wears hearing aids can never have both.
  • Do to the amplification of the device hearing impaired can “hear” their hair. It makes a rustling sound similar to some fabrics. The microphone is behind the ear on either the top or bottom of the “behind the ear piece” (if they, indeed have a behind the ear model). Low pigtails are the bane of my existence. Side braids and side buns equally rub up against the ear. Headbands are also problematic. Cloth ones share the same reaction as scarves, but hard headbands compete with the space behind the ear (this is made worse if the hearing impaired person also wears glasses) as well as press the hearing aid into the skull.

Driving

  • If there are two drivers available to steer the vehicle, allow the normal hearing person drive! Hearing impaired people often will turn their heads out of habit to read the lips to the person sitting beside them. This is dangerous while driving! If the hearing impaired person must drive the passenger should not engage the hearing impaired person in conversation.
  • Every hearing impaired person should find the volume on their radio of which they can still clearly hear sirens as well as the music.

Home

  • Open floor plans deaden sound. It is much more difficult to hear in this type of environment. Victorian-esque plans are more ideal. The more walls, hallways, and room an edifice has the more opportunity sound has to bounce and consequently the better the audio.
  • New standards of telephones are awful for those with hearing aids. Whom ever thought “speaker phone” was the answer to hearing aids was woefully mistaken! Volume does not equal comprehension. Ever. The old fashion handheld sets with the cupped receiver are much more ideal. In modern times, texting has been heaven-sent!

Music/Dances

  • Darkened rooms make it difficult to lip read
  • Background music make it difficult to hear a conversation and socialize.
  • Music and lyrics are two different things. Lyrics are just “sound” so it can sometimes be mistaken for music. Music is just “semi-pleasent sound” to people who wear hearing aids.

Restaurants

  • Always have the hearing impaired person sit away from noisy hallways and kitchens.
  • Have the person who wears hearing aids sit with their backs against a wall or in a corner. Again, this helps bounce sound to the microphone located on the back of the aid.
  • Cross-conversations or talking over the top of others is incredibly frustrating and difficult for hearing impaired people to follow. Do not be surprised if we just tune it all out.
  • Use silverware as quietly as possibly. It is difficult to hear over the din.

Sports

  • Audible calls are lost on hearing impaired players. Be sure the leader of the group includes hand signals for changes in the play.
  • Helmets are impossible to wear with hearing aids. Bike helmets knock up against the aid and American football helmets enclose the head and do not allow room to comfortably wear hearing aids.

I apologize this is without anecdotes, but believe me, this is summarized from nine pages of information! Dear readers, you got off easy!

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