Tips on communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Credit: WNDA
"The importance of communication can’t be underestimated - being able to express your hopes, fears and dreams to others is something most people may take for granted and not even think twice about."
And communicating during a pandemic while many of us are more isolated than before highlights the importance of being able to do that effectively, with face masks posing an even greater challenge for those who rely on lip reading.
West Norfolk Deaf Association (WNDA) has said making your voice heard becomes a "skill set" for people that are deaf of hard of hearing, adding it can be "the key to help unlock the wall of silence."
WNDA manager Anna Pugh said: “Learning British Sign Language (BSL), or even fingerspelling, can make such a difference to an entire group of people and imagine being able to have a simple conversation with a member of the deaf community without the need for a translator.
“While some of us have a little more time at the moment, it’s a great opportunity to begin learning the basics of sign language and fingerspelling and it really isn’t as complicated as you might imagine.
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"It is something we can do to ensure no-one in the community feels isolated or ignored."
The charity said learning the ability to make yourself understood to a person with little or no hearing is not as difficult as you might think, and just being able to tell someone your name using nothing more than your hands can be both straightforward and rewarding - it offers some tips to help with communicating.
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"The whole alphabet can be spelled out on your fingers and, conveniently, we have five on each hand and there are five vowels - so starting with your thumb for A, give your other four digits the remaining vowels ending with U on your little finger.
"So if you hold your left (or right) hand out flat and touch your thumb with your opposing index finger - that’s universally recognised as being A.
"Knowing the vowels enables you to begin building words and fingerspelling can be a relatively easy way of opening a line of communication with someone who can’t hear you or, at the moment, can’t see your mouth because of the masks we are having to wear."
Face the person you are communicating with
"It's crucial they can see your face when you are speaking to them, or are part of a group conversation."
Speak slowly so your speech can be followed easier
"No-one can follow you if you are speaking flat out and not pausing for breath - even people who can hear find that tiring."
"It doesn’t help and it can make both of you uncomfortable. There is no need to raise your voice when you communicate with someone who cannot hear you, just speak clearly and directly."
First language assumption
"Don’t assume a person who is profoundly deaf uses written English as a first language.
"They may not, and writing things down needs to be done considerately."
Learn the basics of sign language
"Even if it is just 'hello, what’s your name?' And fingerspelling your own name - it goes a long way towards forging a friendship."
Take the time to get to know someone who has hearing issues
"Being inclusive is crucial and we want every member of our community to feel valued and part of a society that appreciates them as individuals."
WNDA will be providing an introduction to BSL lessons and qualification classes its King’s Lynn office when it is able to do so.
The manager added: "We would love as many people as possible to come along, make new friends and learn how communicate with our community."
Myra Daines, WNDA's advocate, supports members of the community who may struggle to communicate
with the hearing world with matters such as banking, dealing with utility companies, and legal or medical
For more information on WNDA visit www.wnda.org.uk