How to Effectively Communicate with a Hearing-Impaired Colleague

hearingimpairedblogWorking in an office can be a minefield for anybody. But for those with hearing loss, communicating at work can be particularly difficult, especially if your coworkers don’t understand your unique communication needs.

Hearing Loss in the workplace

To thrive in the office, it’s a good idea for hearing impaired employees to directly approach their colleagues. Your coworkers may know little or nothing about hearing impairments, so explain the best way to talk with you.

Nicola Strahan, who works in finance, says, “Many colleagues had not met a deaf person before, and were a bit apprehensive and curious as to how I would integrate with them.” Strahan’s approach was to openly explain her methods of communication and invite questions about her hearing challenges.

How to communicate with your hearing impaired coworker

Communicating with a colleague who has hearing loss can be difficult when you’re unsure of what to do. If in doubt, ask them. Your hearing-impaired coworker will appreciate your effort, and you’ll foster communication and comradery.

First, take time to learn some of the basics about hearing loss, like:

  • All deaf or partially deaf people have different communication needs!
  • Not all people with a hearing impairment feel the same way about their disability.
  • Most people with impaired hearing will have some residual hearing, but will show no outward signs of how much they are able to hear. The amount they can hear may fluctuate, depending on
  • environmental factors and their emotional or physical state.
  • Most people with hearing impairments communicate through speech. Their individual language levels may not be an indicator of how well they are able to hear.

Second, use good communication strategies, like:

  • Face the hearing impaired person directly.
  • Identify the topic first. For example, “I’d like to talk about tomorrow’s meeting.”
  • Use open-ended questions. This helps you know whether they understood you or not.
  • Speak clearly, but don’t exaggerate your lip and mouth movements – this makes lip-reading harder.
  • Body language and facial expression are important for communication interpretation.
  • Ask questions! See how to best to alter your speech for your coworker.

Finally, be proactive! Basic deaf awareness skills are often lacking, and it’s best if all staff members are trained in communication techniques. Try suggesting this to your manager to foster a company – and community – of understanding.

Things to remember

Tina O’Malley, who runs O’Malley Communications – and happens to be deaf – says, “Good communication is everyone’s responsibility. Give a little deaf awareness training, ensure appropriate communication support is in place, don’t forget a sprinkling of humor, and effective communication should be a breeze.”

Learn more about how to communicate with your hearing impaired colleagues by contacting Audio Help in Manhattan or Westchester today at 888-832-9966.