Communication tips for hearing conditions
If you have a hearing condition or live with somebody who does, there are some simple things you can do to the living and dining areas of your home that can make socialising a little easier.
- Buffer the sound of the room. Fabric absorbs sound and reduces echoes. Carpeted floors, soft furnishings, tablecloths, and drapes will allow for a quieter and more accessible setting than hard floors, bare surfaces and uncovered windows.
- Check your lighting. People who lip-read need good lighting to see other people’s faces clearly so make sure your rooms are clearly lit.
- Go full-circle. Circular tables create a better listening environment and allow people with hearing conditions to lip-read more easily so opt for a circular table in your dining room, and ask if a circular seating arrangement is possible if you are dining out.
- Find your quiet place. Identify a quiet part of the house where you can retreat to if you need a listening break; this is also helpful for people who can experience sensory overload.
- Turn down the music. While music adds a nice tone to any occasion, it can become overpowering to people with hearing conditions. The effort in trying to catch people’s words over the background music can be exhausting, so make sure music levels are low. If you are struggling to hear, ask the host to turn the music down a notch.
- Location, location, location. Try to sit with your back to the wall and with a light behind you. This will improve acoustics and allow you to lip-read more easily.
- Choose a buddy. If you are going to an important social event like an engagement party or a Christmas party, having someone that you can talk to one-on-one on the day and can help you catch words you may have missed can go a long way in making you feel included. Ask a person to be your buddy in advance so you can have peace of mind on the day.
- Take it outside. If you’re in the middle of a one-on-one conversation and are struggling to hear, ask the person you’re speaking with to go to a quieter place with you.
You can use similar approaches when socialising outside the home – taking note of your environment, selecting your seating carefully and even thinking ahead about where you plan to go (for example, is the place likely to be noisy or is it a small and quiet setting) can go a long way towards making listening a little easier.
Self-advocacy, finding support
As a person with hearing loss, advocating for your needs can be challenging, particularly if your hearing condition is new. It takes practice, and confidence, and these build over time. In the meantime, if you need a little help advocating for yourself – in the workplace, with your social groups, or even at home – there are some advocacy groups that can provide tips and advice, such as Soundfair (https://soundfair.org.au/), Deafness Forum of Australia (https://www.deafnessforum.org.au/) and Deaf Australia (https://deafaustralia.org.au/).