Proper communication strategy with hard of hearing people is very important. You can avoid a lot of misunderstanding if you follow these eight simple guidelines. These eight “A’s” are a part of a larger treatise called “The Law of T.H.A.C.” for hard of hearing people. The letters stand for Total Hearing Accessible Communication. This strategy can be used for individuals or group communication.
1. ATTENTION PLEASE
Get their attention first. Never even think of talking to the hard of hearing without letting them know that you want to speak to them. Don’t even start until you have their full and undivided attention first. Consider how you use a telephone, when calling someone you don’t start talking until they answer the phone.
2. ALWAYS STAY FOCUSED
Once you get their attention you must keep it. Make sure they have eye contact with you at all times. If contact is broken for any reason wait until contact is re-established. Do not keep on talking.
3. ACTIVATE YOUR FACE
Lip reading is difficult if you don’t move your mouth or show verbal expression on your face. A deadpan facial expression does not convey a message clearly. We must see some visual form of the spoken word. This is one reason why I don’t enjoy puppets because the expression is the same for every word. Make your speech distinctly visible.
4. Stop ACTING like hearing people
This may sound like a strange request, but hard of hearing people cannot act or talk like a bunch of hearing people in a group situation. You just can’t blurt out jokes, or cut in, or make a comment whenever you feel like without letting everyone know that you are speaking. It is too difficult to follow a conversation when people are randomly speaking back and forth.
Just because you are speaking, does not mean that anyone is listening or can understand you. If you do not have their complete attention you are not getting through. Hello, is anyone listening? I am speaking.
5. AVAIL YOURSELF OF TECHNOLOGY
Use whatever technology is available to help you hear and communicate better. Learn to use a pocket talker or other assistive devices to enhance your communication skills. If there is an FM or a Tele-coil system in the building use it. Don’t pretend that you can get along without it. Pick that receiver unit and head phone and plug into the system. You will be glad you did.
When in the classroom situation always use the microphone while speaking. Hold the mike under your chin so others can read your lips. This means that only one person can speak at a time so everyone can focus on the speaker.
6. ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME FOR EVERYONE TO TALK
Allow only one person speak at a time. Point out the one who is speaking so everyone can focus. Please do not talk or chatter with others in a group situation. If a joke or a punch line is missed, the moderator should repeat it for clarity. Keep all discussions in a normal tone of voice unless you are asked to speak louder.
7. CLEAR YOUR FACE OFF
Remove all objects that would hinder us from reading your lips. Keep your hands away from your mouth.
8. AVOID TURNING AWAY WHILE TALKING
This happens when the speaker turns to point something out and he continues speaking while his back is toward the listener. This is done unconsciously without realizing that the hard of hearing can’t read your lips. There is a law at the University of Georgia which says, no teacher should talk while writing on the board. He must write without talking and then resume talking facing the audience.
The best advice I can give you is to stop talking when you disconnect or break focus with any hard of hearing person. Remember, when you hang up the phone, it doesn’t do any good to keep on talking.
This process must be put into practice every moment of the day with the hard of hearing.
Until the trumpet sounds, LET MY PEOPLE HEAR!
David M. Harrison (C) 2011
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