Effective communication strategies

My life at work today consists of two distinct groups of time… CI time and no CI time, both sets of time include my HA being on. Why might you ask, do you take your CI off at work? You work with all hearing people, a hearing coworker, hearing clients… why is your CI coming off when you need to listen the most? Trust me, I have a very good answer to this…

this lovely piece of machinery is joyfully tearing up the asphalt behind my office. Now with my Hearing aid I occasionally, if I stand right by the door to the back, hear a very quiet rumble, although I can feel it much more than I can hear it. (there is no measurable hearing in that ear). But with the CI, no matter where I am in the shop, it is LOUD… it interferes with my hearing, with my comprehension… and becomes all I can hear… not only that… but with the 100+ db noise it and its 3 Jackhammer friends are putting out… I get a headache. This has lead me to think about my work situation a bit… my new co-worker has never known me as Deaf Ash without a CI, he knows to look at me, but he also knows I can understand some of what is said… he knows he can get my attention just by saying something, he knows I can hear the phone ring… and with the help of my occasionally correct captioned phone, I can also answer it. The inconsistency of today is proving to be difficult for both him and I.

I am finding myself having my CI off every 20 minutes or so… as soon as I hear the sound, or begin to feel the vibrations that mean the sound is inevitable, the CI comes off my head, and I enter a beautiful world of complete silence… with more communication difficulties than has become my norm.

With that, I’ve started to think about how communication can be eased between us right now, and what, in reality, should be good practice all the time so we can ensure good communication. These tips may be helpful for someone else, which is why I have decided to codify (write them down).  I am thinking of calling them something catchy… but the only thing that is coming to mind is that Deaf Girl’s Law… which is in no way catchy.

Effective Communication Strategies:

1. Make sure you have the person’s attention before you begin to speak.

  • To do this, tap the person on the shoulder lightly
  • If you are trying to get everyone’s attention, you may flash the lights
  • NEVER throw something at the person to get their attention

from Matt Daigles that Deaf Guy

2. Speak in a normal tone of voice, at a normal speed.

  • do not think that just because your voice is raised, the d/Deaf/HoH person can understand what you are saying better, normally it is harder.
  • Do not think that if you talk slowly we will understand better… by doing that you are changing how your lips move, and making it harder to understand.

3. When you are talking, be sure to keep looking at the dhh person without fidgeting or covering your mouth.

  • This will make it easier for them to continue to understand, when you look away our source of information disappears.
  • When you fidget, it is distracting, think of trying to read a book while someone giggles it, wiggles it and twists…
  • Covering your mouth does just the same as turning away… If I can’t see your lips when you are talking, I will have no idea what you are saying.

4. Stand with approximately 4 feet in between the two of you

  • Standing too close or too far away can make comprehension difficult

5. Do not get frustrated when the word “What” creeps in, it is bound to happen…

  • This word is going to come up, Maybe we misunderstood, maybe the words looked like gobbydygook… maybe we blinked and missed something, but the word is bound to come up. Keep calm, proceed to step 6 and 7.

6. When asked what, do not simply say the same thing again, restate it, choose different words, because maybe then we will understand.

  • Certain words look the same, certain words are just difficult to understand. Being given the same word over and over doesn’t necessarily enhance our comprehension, but it is the definition of insanity. Giving us a second word, with the same or similar meaning can aid us in grasping what is said.

7. Write things down that are complicated, or if we don’t understand

  • Contrary to popular belief, not all deaf people are stupid… we can write, we are not all illiterate. Just like in hearing worlds, in different states, countries, some of us may not be able to write or read… but this is not due to our deafness, this is more likely due to inadequate teaching as children, or inadequate access to language. Do not assume all deaf people can’t write, just as I won’t assume all hearing people can’t (even though my experiences have been hearing people less likely to try and write than a deaf person)

8. Be patient

  • Lip-reading is hard, it takes time, we can’t grasp everything that is said. Be patient with us, frustration is going to happen on both ends of the conversation, but getting frustrated will not help us meet our communication goals.

9. Understand lip-reading is exhausting and takes a lot out of us, the more tired we become, the less we will understand.

  • Try to limit the communication time. Break it up into blocks of time if necessary. The longer we lip read, the more mistakes we will make.
  • Giving breaks can allow us to think about what was said, and make notes if we need to.

10. Speak clearly.

  • Mumbling is one of our worst nightmares.

lipreading Nightmares. From Matt Daigle

11. Understand accents are harder, it takes more time for us to get use to the way you speak, so our comprehension will be lower to start with.

  • Be patient and if needed, use a pen and paper or a computer to communicate. This will ease frustration for both of us.

12. Lip-reading is not an exact science.

  • Only 30%-40% of the English language is able to be understood from the lips themselves, a really good lip reader, knowing the conversation topics can do better than that, but lip reading is not a science, and too many things can interfere with comprehension.

13. If the person uses a HA or CI, be cautious of background noise.

  • Background noise overpowers everything else. We don’t have the ability to “tune” out specific noises like a fan, or the conversation of others (or… a jackhammer). Our comprehension can go up if we have a quiet environment.

14. Do not assume that if we don’t understand we are less intelligent.

15. NEVER use the words “never mind”

  • This will be explained more in depth in the next blog… but the phrase never mind… it huts.



So those are some of my tips… any you care to suggest? Although my personal favorite wasn’t mentioned, because this was more about my life at work… but still, if the deaf person signs, learn sign language!!!!


One thought on “Effective communication strategies

  1. Today I said “It brings me a lot of joy” to my husband in a conversation we were having in the car. He had his CI on. He heard “That leads to a lot of arguing” — I had to repeat myself, of course, but sometimes even the CI in a closed area completely soundless (like the cab of a car) still isn’t a1 the best.

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