Communication Tips For All From Someone With Hearing Loss

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I attended my first Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Board meeting a few months ago. It was exciting to learn about all the important initiatives that are underway and fun to spend time with other people with hearing loss. Before I left home, I wondered how it would be possible for 14 people, all with varying degrees of hearing loss, to hold an effective board meeting, but I was amazed how smoothly the communication flowed. In fact, it was one of the most respectful and productive meetings I have ever attended — and I have attended a lot of meetings. It made me realize how much those of us with hearing loss can teach our hearing friends about communication.

 

Most HLAA board members, although not all, have some degree of hearing loss. Therefore, a variety of hearing devices and other tools were used to ensure that all could participate in the meeting. These included a hearing loop, captioning, and most importantly from my perspective, a strict enforcement of conversation protocol.

These protocol include:

1. Take turns speaking. Only one person spoke at a time. Really. I can’t remember the last meeting I have attended where people did not speak over each other. Taking turns insured that each person’s comments were understood and valued by all. Plus, it was the only way the captioner could keep up with the dialogue.

2. Speak calmly and clearly. People who were speaking did so in a clear and calm manner because they did not feel rushed or worried that others would interrupt. Nobody raised their voice to be heard over another person. While the discussion sometimes was heated given the topic at hand, the environment remained respectful.

3. Listen while others speak. When you have hearing loss, you must concentrate on the speaker in order to keep up. There isn’t extra time or mental capacity, at least for me, such that you can also be planning your next move, while keeping an ear on the conversation. This led to an efficient dialogue since people were really listening to what each speaker had to say.

4. Accept formality. Since people needed a microphone in order to speak (to connect to the loop) there was often a queue of folks who wanted to contribute or ask a question. This allowed for an orderly flow of the conversation as the Chair recognized people before they could speak. Plus, everyone knew who was going to speak next, which made it easier to know where to look for lipreading cues.

It was an incredibly productive meeting. All views were aired. People listened. It was respectful. Issues were debated and decisions were made. And everyone left not only hearing, but feeling heard. I am hoping I can employ some of these tricks at my next meeting or family function.

Readers, do you follow conversation protocol?

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13 thoughts on “Communication Tips For All From Someone With Hearing Loss”

  1. judygermaine – For those who are interested, here is some information about my family research, photos of family and friends, how I'm doing with weight loss, life in Florida after a lifetime in New York, my journey through the world of the cochlear implant, adventures in the Hearing Loss Association of Jacksonville and HLA-FL as well as activities at St. John's Cathedral. Tom is my husband, Frank is my son and Johanna my daughter.  Susan is my daughter-in-law and my three wonderful grandchildren are Amanda, Nick and Alison. My mother is alive at age 96. I share her with my two younger sisters, Jayne and Gail. My older brother Ron died in June 2007.  I have 46 first cousins.  That is my claim to fame. I moved with husband Tom to Florida in October 2004 from Yankee Lake, Wurtsboro, New York.  New York had been my home for almost sixty years. I've been a community activist for many years  and have been involved in the Lions, the Historical Society, the Grange, the Ambulance Corps.  Other major activities have included the Episcopal Church and genealogy. Since moving to Florida, I have formed the Hearing Loss Association of Jacksonville, served as President and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Hearing Loss Association of Florida, and am editor for the state newsletter, "Hear Ye, Hear Ye." Other hearing loss activities include an appointment by the Governor to the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (FCCDHH) and to the Advisory Committee to the DCF-HHS by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    Judy Schefcick Martin says:

    I’m happy you are so impressed. I’d venture to say that most HLAA chapter meetings are run this way. We instruct our members/visitors at the beginning of every meeting to raise their hand to be recognized and to speak one at a time. It’s so important for folks with hearing loss to know WHO is speaking. I guess I thought board members came up through “the ranks,” so to speak and would be familiar with those methods. I guess that can’t be true though, since, as you say, some don’t have a hearing loss and would not have been exposed to our procedures. I’m glad there are people who are hard of hearing on the board because no one understands us like they do.

    A minor point is that you probably didn’t have closed captioning. There are two types of captions: Open and closed. Closed captions are optional and activated by the viewer, while open captions are always on. This is the only effective difference between the two. And actually most of us, the long-time HLAA members, call what you had at your meeting, CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation). How we love our CART providers! We treat them with loving care.

    Shari, I like your blog. It’s interesting to read and reminds me of the many things I’ve learned over the years and has also introduced some new ideas. I’m happy you’re at bat for HLAA members across the country. Thank you.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      Thank you Judy!

  2. judygermaine – For those who are interested, here is some information about my family research, photos of family and friends, how I'm doing with weight loss, life in Florida after a lifetime in New York, my journey through the world of the cochlear implant, adventures in the Hearing Loss Association of Jacksonville and HLA-FL as well as activities at St. John's Cathedral. Tom is my husband, Frank is my son and Johanna my daughter.  Susan is my daughter-in-law and my three wonderful grandchildren are Amanda, Nick and Alison. My mother is alive at age 96. I share her with my two younger sisters, Jayne and Gail. My older brother Ron died in June 2007.  I have 46 first cousins.  That is my claim to fame. I moved with husband Tom to Florida in October 2004 from Yankee Lake, Wurtsboro, New York.  New York had been my home for almost sixty years. I've been a community activist for many years  and have been involved in the Lions, the Historical Society, the Grange, the Ambulance Corps.  Other major activities have included the Episcopal Church and genealogy. Since moving to Florida, I have formed the Hearing Loss Association of Jacksonville, served as President and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Hearing Loss Association of Florida, and am editor for the state newsletter, "Hear Ye, Hear Ye." Other hearing loss activities include an appointment by the Governor to the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (FCCDHH) and to the Advisory Committee to the DCF-HHS by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    Judy G. Martin says:

    I’m happy you are so impressed. I’d venture to say that most HLAA chapter meetings are run this way. We instruct our members/visitors at the beginning of every meeting to raise their hand to be recognized and to speak one at a time. It’s so important for folks with hearing loss to know WHO is speaking. I guess I thought board members came up through “the ranks,” so to speak and would be familiar with those methods. I guess that can’t be true though, since, as you say, some don’t have a hearing loss and would not have been exposed to our procedures. I’m glad there are people who are hard of hearing on the board because no one understands us like they do.

    A minor point is that you probably didn’t have closed captioning. There are two types of captions: Open and closed. Closed captions are optional and activated by the viewer, while open captions are always on. This is the only effective difference between the two. (Open at the movies and closed on TV, but that’s another long story.) Actually most of us, the long-time HLAA members, call what you had at your meeting, CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation). How we love our CART providers! We treat them with loving care.

    Shari, I like your blog. It’s interesting to read and reminds me of the many things I’ve learned over the years and has also introduced some new ideas. I’m happy you’re at bat for HLAA members across the country. Thank you.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      Thanks so much for your comment and yes, I should have said CART. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. Tracey – North of England – deaf, 50-something, public health specialist and creator of Hear 2 Work. Living, working and travelling around the North of England.
    Tracey says:

    Hi Shari, I love to have meetings with other deaf people as they are much more considerate of others. When I was a trustee at our local deaf charity, we made sure that we ran our meetings in this way and that anyone who wanted to speak had to indicate to the chair by raising their hand. It meant that no-one talked over anyone and gave others time to be able to focus on the next person to speak. We also had to ensure that we had regular ‘eye-breaks’ to ensure we didn’t tire and meant that any BSL interpreters and speech to text reporters also had an opportunity for some down-time during the meeting.

    I liked the feeling that the meetings were very respectful of everyone present and I therefore tried to incorporate it into my normal working life, encouraging others to adopt that approach as an adjustment to working with me. It also helped when I was the chair too as it meant they had to get my attention before they could speak!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      That is great that you have incorporated this respectful communication into your other meetings too. I am trying to do the same. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  4. What you present should be rules at all meetings! Even at my book club people talk over one another and side conversations making for a pretty unproductive meeting!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      I agree!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I wish I had some good ideas, but haven’t been able to find any good ones. Anyone else have any ideas? Thanks for the question.

  5. joellen15 – I was born deaf and mainstreamed into the world of hearing, confused all the way my whole life, frequently wishing that I was raised in Deaf culture. Decades later, I am starting research to see if my beliefs of mainstreaming to a Deaf Culture really would have been the best decision for my life as a child. I do believe the results will be dramatically different in a positive way than the experience I had being mainstreamed in a hearing world being nothing but confused and appearing and feeling dumb my entire life, not to mention all the poor choices I made.
    joellen15 says:

    Shari, this quote of yours right here. “There isn’t extra time or mental capacity, at least for me, such that you can also be planning your next move, while keeping an ear on the conversation” it shows me you understand my dilemma of freezing in group conversations, therefore I’ve avoided them like the plague my whole life if I could which made for not only a lonely life when married but also a hit on my ego. I’m a senior citizen now so I’m too old to change but I’m just curious. You don’t have time to plan your move when it’s your turn to talk, so how do you do it. I don’t know, I need time to think after squinting my eyes so hard reading someone’s lips and concentrating so hard on the content of their message, then all of a sudden, okay Jo Ellen what do you think? I’m like uh, red faced, you get my meaning. I’m in awe of anyone that can just join in and go with the flow. You’re amazing Shari, and so are thousands of others like you. I wish I had it in me.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      It takes a lot of practice and hard work, but you soon get the hang of it — at least in most instances. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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