Put bluntly, my hearing is shot to hell. It was never really great anyway, but 40-plus years of wearing loud headphones as part of my job have taken their toll. If I don't respond, I probably didn't hear you. If I ask you to repeat yourself, it is likely because I heard you but could not understand what you said. Be patient.

Some folks have an odd way of responding to someone with hearing loss. Often they find humor in it. Many people are impatient and become annoyed if asked to repeat something they said. They act as though somehow your impairment is an inconvenience to them. 

Hearing loss is no joke, particularly to those who are experiencing it. Be kind. And don't yell at me. My hearing is impaired, I am not stupid nor am I trying to be a pain in your ass. 

Most times someone with impaired hearing can hear what is being said but just can't understand it. Perhaps we could do a better job explaining our condition so that others will understand. Maybe we should say "I didn't understand you" rather than "I didn't hear you." 

I have become adept at reading lips which helps me tremendously to understand what is being said. But I have to see your face as you are speaking for that to happen.

Just a few tips from the University of California San Fransisco for communicating with a hearing-impaired person:

  • Face the person directly, on the same level, and in good light whenever possible. 
  • Do not talk from another room. 
  • Speak clearly, slowly, distinctly, but naturally, without shouting or exaggerating mouth movements. 
  • Say the person's name before beginning a conversation. This gives the listener a chance to focus attention and reduces the chance of missing words at the beginning of the conversation.
  • Avoid talking too rapidly or using sentences that are too complex. 
  • If the hearing-impaired listener hears better in one ear than the other, try to make a point of remembering which ear is better so that you will know where to position yourself.
  • If you are giving specific information – such as time, place, or phone numbers – have them repeat the specifics back to you. 
  • Whenever possible, provide pertinent information in writing, such as directions, schedules, work assignments, etc.
  • A puzzled look may indicate misunderstanding. Tactfully ask the hearing-impaired person if they understood you, or ask leading questions so you know your message got across.

Hearing-impaired people are not dumb. We are not looking to give you a hard time or to inconvenience you in any way. We have a disability that requires patience and understanding. 

Thank you.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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