10 Tips for Being Deaf Friendly During Holiday Gatherings

10 Tips for Being Deaf Friendly During Holiday Gatherings

We all have different challenges navigating the world around us. For someone who isn’t particularly tall, a top shelf in the grocery can be a challenge. For anyone with long legs, those airplane seats are an issue. For those that are hard of hearing or deaf, social situations can be especially hard. During the holidays, with the increase in both business and family gatherings, it’s a great time to learn some tips that will help make the holidays more inclusive for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

During social situations when everyone is mingling, many of us have the not-so-great habit of yelling at someone from across the room to try and get their attention. Certainly, this does not work well for someone with hearing issues. So, what can you do? What are the best ways to improve communication with anyone who has hearing issues, and help ensure that they are included in all that holiday cheer?

  1. Get Their Attention Properly

The best way to approach those who are deaf or hard of hearing is to make sure to get in their direct line of sight before trying to get their attention. If that’s not possible, you can try a gentle touch on their shoulder. Or, if they’re already conversing with someone, you can signal that person to point you out (if it seems okay to interrupt).

  1. Face Them

Make sure you’re facing the person directly, as many people who are hard of hearing or deaf use lipreading. Facing them directly also helps those who have limited hearing distinguish the sound of your voice better in a noisy room.

  1. Make Eye Contact

Look directly at the person you are speaking with. Keep in mind that facial expressions can give context and visual clues to what you’re talking about, so make sure, whenever possible, that you are standing in a location that has reasonable lighting so they can see your face clearly. Though, don’t over-exaggerate your facial expressions.

  1. Speak Clearly, Don’t Cover Your Mouth

Anything that covers your mouth or your lips from being read makes the conversation much harder. Eating or chewing gum changes your lip movements, and can also partially obscure the sound of your voice, so avoid either when possible.

  1. Let Them Choose the Right Distance

When you begin the conversation, stand several feet away and then let the person you’re talking to adjust the distance as needed. If they are wearing hearing aids or have a sound amplification device, they can shift to the location that is best for their device, and if not, they will shift to their preferred distance for lip reading or signing.

  1. Use Writing if Needed

Writing something down can sometimes be helpful in keeping the conversation flowing. Whether you’re doing this with a note, or on a computer, make sure they understand what you are saying before you move on.

  1. Don’t Ramble on and Speak Normally

Speak succinctly, with a normal speaking pattern and with your normal tone of voice. Don’t exaggerate your lip movements. As with any good conversation, take turns. Do your best to understand what they are communicating about, and ask them to repeat as needed. Be happy to repeat or clarify something you said if they are having trouble understanding you.

  1. Don’t Assume that a Hearing Aid Means They Can Hear Everything

Hearing aids don’t necessarily allow a person to hear everything perfectly. If you see that someone is wearing hearing aids, you can ask if they need to lipread. It can also help to move to a quiet part of the room, or an out of the way spot to minimize background noises, such as people talking.

  1. Don’t Let Your Discomfort Stop You

You may not have had the opportunity to speak with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing before, so you may find yourself avoiding talking to someone because of your own discomfort. We all like to be included, whether it’s the holidays or not. So, take a deep breath and have the conversation. They are a person, just like you. If a hard of hearing or deaf person is already in a conversation, you can have the other person introduce you. Make sure to include everyone if you’re in a group conversation.

  1. Offer Communication Support

If you are hosting a holiday gathering and you know that there will be a deaf person, consider asking them how they prefer to communicate and what you can do to support that. If they prefer a sign language interpreter, ask if they’d like you to hire one, or if they have their own interpreter they’d like to bring. Remember, when you are having a conversation with someone who has an interpreter, speak with the person you’re having the conversation with, not the interpreter.

Millions of people in the United States are deaf or hard of hearing, and no two are alike, so don’t assume what works well with one person works well with another. Whether it’s the holidays or not, and whether you’re in-person, or celebrating over Zoom, be patient and inclusive with everyone. (Here are some Tips for Better Video Calls with Deaf/Hard of Hearing Participants).

LSHF helps restore the gift of hearing to those who qualify but can’t afford the help they need. Here’s how you or someone you love can find out if they qualify, or call 1.800.647.6638.

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