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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rude or infinately patient?

If you don’t know, carry on a conversation with someone hard of hearing. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not slamming people with a hearing handicap. I’m on the receiving end, not the giving. About twenty years ago, thanks to a doctor who gave me a medication in too strong a dosage for too long a time, I’ve discovered people who answer to both ends of that question. To some, I have suddenly become invisible to a degree they not only cut me out of a conversation; they turn their backs to me. Are they embarrassed, thoughtless, or….? I really don’t know, but I do know, there are more on the other side. I know it’s frustrating to have to repeat what you say, two or three times. It’s frustrating to me to have to ask you to. I’m happy to say the ratio of those willing is far higher than those who get irritated, rude, or back off when I move closer to hear better. Honestly, I’ve had people back away to the point I worried about BO more than did I invade their space. There are those like a clerk I asked questions about my computer. He’d repeated the information in parts for the third time before he asked, “Are you having trouble understanding me or hearing me?” I could have hugged him. He didn’t look at me as if I were stupid. Furthermore, he didn’t start yelling at me to embarrass me. Yelling, btw, only makes it worse. Yelling distorts the sounds I’m already having trouble recognizing. I have about 25% speech recognition in one ear. I supplement that with lip reading which at its best is estimated to be 33%. Anything that distorts the sound or obscures your mouth lessens my ability to catch enough to make sense of what you’re saying, although admittedly there are some people who don’t make any sense anyway. Poor diction makes it nearly impossible. I’m becoming more and more aware of how poorly people speak, enough to make me wonder do they not teach pronunciation in the schools anymore. Slurring, running words together, talking a mile a minute, and chewing gum take my comprehension abilities down to about one word in twenty.
As hard of hearing, I would like to pass these tips along in talking to people ‘like us.’
Get our attention. This doesn’t mean walk up and slap us on the back or. Some people’s favorite, on the fanny. Not only is it jarring to the nerves it’s irritating. A light touch on the arm or shoulder is so appreciated. If you’re across the room, waving wildly usually helps. Also what works nicely is to ask a hearing person near me to ‘touch me lightly on the arm’ and point in your direction.
Look at and talk in our direction. It isn’t necessary to look us in the eye. I know that makes some people uncomfortable. I wouldn’t look you in the eye anyway; I’d be watching your mouth. Keep in mind if you’re looking over your shoulder, to the side, or even at the floor, not only is it difficult to see your mouth, the sound is going that direction.
Don’t cover your mouth.  You’d be surprised how many people do that when their talking. Are they afraid they have spinach in their teeth?
Don’t shout. I’ve already explained why. Sometimes pitching your voice to another level helps, but generally speaking normally works the best.  
Pronoun your words clearly. Self explanatory.
Speak at a normal rate. By that I mean, just because I tell you I’m hard of hearing, don’t think talking in slow motion is going to help. I’ve found slow motion is like shouting. It tends to distort. I’mmmmm gooooing etc. I have asked people to slow down. It’s usually last about three words into a sentence before they’re back up to speed.
Don’t be irritated if I parrot back what you said. I’m just making sure I heard you right before I answer.
Be patient. That’s the most important thing, and enjoy some of the unexpected humor when you ask me a question and I give you some off the wall answer to what I think you said.

Larriane AKA Larion Wills, two names one author, thousands of stories White Savage, Chase, Tarbet
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