Over 5% of the world’s population suffers from hearing loss, which equates to around 360 million people. With a global incidence this high, it’s likely that you know at least one person who is deaf or hard of hearing.
Hearing loss is more common amongst aging adults but it can affect people of all ages. People with genetic conditions or hereditary disorders that affect the development of the ear can be born deaf and will never experience life with full hearing.
Whether it’s your family member, a friend, or a work colleague, knowing how to help them is important. Providing support to those who are deaf or hard of hearing can make a huge difference to their quality of life.
Deaf people can often feel excluded or discriminated against because of their disability. This can lead to low mood and anxiety and makes things much harder for the individual than they need to be.
There are lots of great new technologies that have been developed to help those with hearing loss, such as sophisticated hearing aids. There are also plenty of things that you can do to help your loved ones.
Here are some of the best things that you can do to help somebody who is deaf, whether they are a loved one, a work friend, or
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Showing empathy to others is one of the best ways to show your love and support. Although you won’t be able to fully experience what a deaf person experiences on a day-to-day basis, you can try your best to put yourself in their shoes.
Learn more about hearing loss, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments. By educating yourself about each of these things, you will be able to empathize more easily with those who are hard of hearing.
Many people can get frustrated with deaf people if they are struggling to interpret what is being said. But when you are able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you will understand why they are struggling. Your patience will increase, and your relationships will improve as a result.
Self-education is important in every area of your life, and it can be extremely helpful to learn more about deafness and how it can severely impact somebody’s life.
Don’t Be Patronizing
There’s a fine line between helping somebody who is deaf and being patronizing. While it’s difficult to walk this line, it’s important to try your best not to cross it.
The metaphorical line between being helpful or patronizing depends on the person. What one deaf person finds helpful, another will find unhelpful. You will need to figure out what is good for each person who is hard of hearing when you meet them.
For example, some deaf people won’t mind you finishing their sentences for them or trying to guess what they’re saying before they’ve spoken it out loud. For others, this is offensive and patronizing.
It is possible to overdo things when you’re interacting with somebody who is deaf. You can begin to overcompensate in the hopes of helping the individual. However, overcompensation can be damaging in the long term and might cause issues in the relationship that you have with the deaf people in your life.
Go to Appointments With Them
If your partner, close family member, or close friend has hearing loss, you could offer to attend their appointments with them. Many deaf individuals have regular hearing care appointments with specialists in the field.
During hearing care appointments, your loved one might have an updated hearing test, and the healthcare professional may provide expert advice to help them manage their condition more easily. You can attend the appointment with them to make things quick and simple.
At the hearing care appointment, you will be able to learn more about your loved one’s condition and how you can best support them on a daily basis. You might want to ask the healthcare workers about hearing loss and share your own opinions and observations.
Your loved ones will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to support them and educate yourself about their condition.
Learn to Communicate Effectively
Most deaf people use lip reading to fully interpret what other people are saying to them. They also look at facial expressions and hand gestures to gather context around the words that are being said.
When you are communicating with a deaf person or somebody who has severe hearing loss, remember to use non-verbal communication cues. Doing so will make it easier for the other person to understand what you are saying.
Use hand gestures when you speak, make strong facial expressions to convey your emotions, and speak clearly with your mouth fully visible to the deaf person. If you need to speak to them, grab their attention and make sure that they can see your face before you begin speaking.
More importantly, don’t get angry or frustrated if they don’t understand you the first time you say something. Practice patience and kindness, and remember that tiredness or sickness can affect a person’s ability to properly lip-read.
Another great way to communicate effectively with those who are hard of hearing is to use simple sentences. Avoid using complex words or jargon that others wouldn’t understand, whether they have full hearing or not. Try and find a quiet environment that has good lighting so that the other person is able to see your face clearly.
Practice Active Listening
Active listening is important for any conversation but it’s particularly important when you’re communicating with somebody who is deaf. Part of active listening involves taking in what the other person is saying and showing that you are genuinely listening to their words.
To practice active listening, nod to acknowledge what the other person is saying or change your facial expressions in relation to their words. Laugh and smile to display your emotions and show that you are engaged in the conversation.
Active listening will make the other person feel more comfortable and confident in communicating with you. This can have a positive impact on your relationship with them and help the deaf individual to feel more accepted.