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Become an ally

Being an ally to people with hearing loss is not just about being supportive of their hearing loss journey, it’s about engaging them in conversations to know how best to support their needs.


The Deaf and hard-of-hearing community

The Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities have their own identities, cultures, and even languages that a good ally must be familiar with and sensitive to in order to be helpful in the right way.

I can’t emphasize how impactful it is for hearing people to gain an understanding of how to communicate with us.

Danielle Guth born with severe conductive hearing loss
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Compromise and respect

Helping a loved one deal with and adapt to hearing loss will involve compromise from everyone involved, but if we work together and support our loved ones, we can overcome the stigma and enjoy a harmonious lifestyle.

Practice patience

Often, hearing individuals can become easily frustrated when someone with hearing loss doesn’t hear them. But it’s important to realize that the frustration and difficulty communicating goes both ways. The best approach is to be patient.

Find alternative forms of communication

Not everyone with hearing loss communicates in the same way. Some people don’t communicate with spoken language, and not everyone signs. By using alternative forms of communication like writing, email, or even gestures, we can open the possibilities of communication and understanding one another.

Remain mindful of communication barriers

There are a variety of different scenarios in everyday life that can be incredibly difficult for those who have hearing loss. For instance, speaking on the phone, talking behind glass walls or a mask, not being able to face someone while they are speaking, are all communication barriers that people with hearing loss must face regularly.

Communicate clearly  

It can be helpful to avoid covering your mouth and to use eye contact when speaking to them. When talking on the phone, video-calling can be helpful as well. This is even more important to keep in mind if the individual with hearing loss communicates through sign language.

Be willing to repeat yourself

Individuals with hearing loss aren’t intentionally ignoring you when they're silent after a question. Instead, they might just not have heard you. Try to avoid saying, “never mind,” as this phrase can make your communication partner feel left out and dismissed. When asked to repeat yourself, rephrase your sentence with different words and sounds to make what you said clearer for them.

Set your TV to show closed captions 

Closed captions can help those with hearing loss and others to follow along more closely when watching TV and to keep everyone from missing out on important details.

 

Being an ally in relationships

Navigating a romantic relationship when one partner has hearing loss can come with unique challenges for everyone. There are helpful approaches that you can learn to overcome some of these challenges and be a better ally in relationships, romantic or not. 

 

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Let individuals with hearing loss choose where they want to sit

If an individual with hearing loss wears hearing aids, has a cochlear implant, or in some cases both, they’ll usually have an ear they can hear from better. Because of this, you should be mindful of where they like to sit or where they’d prefer you to sit to give them a more comfortable listening experience. Also, remote microphones can be integrated with hearing aids and cochlear implants to support communication in noisy environments and over distance. 

Make sure they are comfortable when being intimate 

Keep in mind that hearing devices can get knocked off the ear or head and the person might want to stop and reorient the device back into place. It might be helpful to communicate in advance whether they want to take their hearing device off when getting intimate or figure out signals for when it’s too dark to see.

Be patient 

Most people would agree that communication in a relationship is essential. Since people with hearing loss may have more challenges with regards to communication, patience and understanding can go a long way.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

It’s perfectly normal to have questions while in a relationship with someone who has hearing loss. In fact, curiosity is appreciated. You’ll pick up on things over time and maybe even learn more about yourself.

Make it clear if you’re uncomfortable

If you’re ever uncomfortable, it’s important to talk openly about it. For example, if your partner keeps the music loud, ask nicely to find a compromise.

Being an ally at work

Offering an employee or job candidate with hearing loss solutions to overcome communication barriers can make a big impact. They’ll appreciate having an equitable working environment and be more confident in their ability to be successful. With a few tips, you can learn how to be a more inclusive boss or colleague to someone with hearing loss.

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Be mindful of your surroundings 

Because individuals with hearing loss rely on visual cues to varying degrees, avoid sitting directly in a bright light or window as it can make it more difficult to see you clearly.

Clarify and repeat yourself if needed

When working with an employee or interviewing a candidate with hearing loss, let them know that they can always ask questions and ask for clarification when something is not clear. This will make a more comfortable atmosphere for them to feel welcomed and accepted.

Use written communication

Have a form of written communication as a good fallback when needed. Most video platforms have a chat feature built-in, but you can also use a whiteboard.

Create space for an interpreter

Using an interpreter can help when interviewing a candidate who communicates using sign language. Make sure the interpreter has access to sound and video before the interview so they can communicate clearly on both sides.

Identify the speaker and interpreter

Make sure the speaker and interpreter are visible at all times, and that their thumbnails in virtual group chats and interviews are larger and pinned. If they’re not pinned, it can sometimes be hard to find the person speaking, depending on the number of people on the call.

Being an ally at school

As a teacher, your main role is to ensure that students are accessing the curriculum, are successful, and are inspired to learn. When you’re a teacher of a student with hearing loss, consider these few extra steps to ensure that they have the same access to education. 

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Stay flexible and find creative solutions

When you’re a teacher of a student with hearing loss, they’ll benefit if you learn about the mechanics of their hearing loss and by being willing to be creative in finding solutions to issues that may arise. And, of course, effective communication with the student is key.

Research the fundamentals of hearing loss

When you haven’t had experience with hearing loss, you may not know exactly how a child’s hearing is affected. A little research into the fundamentals of hearing loss can make it much easier to understand the challenges students with hearing loss face in the classroom. With more education, you can address these issues with helpful techniques like lowering vocal tones, preferential seating, enunciating, and facing the student when speaking.

Collaborate with hearing care professionals 

If there are hearing care professionals at the school, for example a hearing itinerant, speech-language therapist, or a resource teacher, it would be important as the teacher to communicate with these other professionals, as well as collaborate with them. 

Understand the student’s experience during school

Listening is exhausting for someone with hearing loss. If you’ve ever been in a foreign country without speaking the language fluently, think about how you felt trying to make out meanings, translating signs, and comprehending language all day long. 

Check in on your students with hearing loss

If you have a student with hearing loss, you may want to set little reminders to regularly check in on them throughout even the busiest of days. That small step can make a big difference in the child’s experience.

Incorporate assistive listening technology 

Assistive listening technology is an inclusive solution for the classroom that can increase access to sound and reduce background noise. The Roger™ Touchscreen Mic is a simple and intuitive hearing aid microphone the teacher can wear around their neck or place on a table to pick up speech from a group of students, enabling children with hearing loss to actively participate in the classroom.  
 

Encourage children to advocate for themselves

If you create an environment in which a child with hearing loss is comfortable speaking up for themselves when they can’t hear, you will undoubtedly continue to change the lives of the students you teach.

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Accessibility barriers

People with hearing loss have to navigate multiple accessibility barriers every day. We can all work on advocating for better accommodations, implementing more accessible design, using assistive hearing technology, and being mindful of scenarios that would provide challenges for someone with hearing loss, such as:

  • Remote work and school
  • Taxis and ride-share apps
  • Sound-based apps
  • Seeing plays, movies, or concerts
  • Drive-through windows
 
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Find a provider

Whether you’re looking for help with hearing loss or want to get set up with hearing aids, we can help you find a hearing care professional near you.