As a family caregiver for someone who is deaf, your day-to-day life can be rather more challenging than those of your friends. But you have to think past that; think of how difficult life must be for your mother or father, suffering from no longer being able to hear the myriad beautiful sounds of the world.
If you are able to communicate easily and effectively with your mum or dad, that will make things much more pleasant for them on an everyday basis – if it’s taxing for you to converse with them, imagine how strenuous it must be for them!
Here are a few tips to help make life run a little more smoothly for you – the most important part of caring for a deaf person is knowing how to communicate with them properly. Use this article to give yourself a leg up, and you’ll soon be chatting away, no problem!
Get Their Attention Beforehand
Before you try to talk to them, first off you should try to get their attention; simple eye contact should be good enough, but you can use a light touch or a little wave if necessary.
In the deaf community, a light touch is acceptable, even with someone you don’t know. The shoulder is probably the best place for this, but remember to be considerate – you don’t want to go poking your mum or dad in the arm!
Stay in Sight
You should try to keep your eyes level with theirs when speaking – you sit down if he/she is, you stoop if you’re much taller, etc. – this makes understanding you much simpler. Deaf people often use lip-reading in conjunction with their hearing aids to help them when there’s something they don’t quite catch.
Also, make sure you look out for any obstructions, such as a shadow being cast over your face, or the light glaring in their face. If you can eliminate all of these obstacles, your conversations should run smoothly again.
Speak Normally, But Clearly
Don’t feel like you have to shout, or that you need to exaggerate your facial movements – both of these things are unnatural, and thus make you harder to understand. Increasing your volume can help, but only if the person is simply hard of hearing, and not wearing a hearing aid.
It has the downside of drawing unnecessary attention from others, however; this can make your mum or dad feel really conscious of themselves and of their condition. Facial hair can make it more difficult to understand you, as can a lot of background noise.
Be Normal, Be Considerate, Be Patient
You don’t have to do anything particularly special while talking to a deaf person; as long as you are considerate and put the effort in, that will be enough. Don’t change the topic too suddenly, make sure to use gestures, and make eye contact.
Sign language may help, but these small changes should be enough to make life easier for both parties.
Jamie King is a blogger working for Boots Hearingcare; if you are worried about your hearing, book yourself in for a hearing test