Communication Tips For All From Someone With Hearing Loss

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.

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

  1. 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.

    Like

  2. 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.

    Like

  3. 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!

    Like

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