In a hearing world, it’s inevitable that people who are deaf or hard of hearing will miss some, all or part of a conversation. Hearing people might not think twice about what it’s like to have hearing loss. However if you’re the friend of a deaf person, then you probably considered it. What if you couldn’t hear the conversations around you, or music playing, or even just the tv even though you’re sitting right in front of it.
If you or someone you know is deaf or hard of hearing, we’re sharing tips to help reduce the isolation gap and help someone feel less frustrated and alone. Also don’t be shy – ask your friend what they feel would help them.
Ways To Promote Social Inclusion When Your Friend is Deaf or Hard Of Hearing
In the Classroom
People who are deaf or hard of hearing need line of sight directly to the blackboard. Yet that doesn’t always mean that someone wants to sit in the very front of the classroom, especially if they don’t want to call attention to themselves. You can be mindful to:
- Make sure that you aren’t obstructing your friend’s line of sight when they need to be looking at the front of the classroom
- Not distract them when they may be lip reading or otherwise trying to read body language or other visual cues
- Confirm with your friend after class that they heard any important announcements during class or important things that were said when your friend was looking away.
In the Playground
During recreational times, many teens just hang out and make social plans. Whether friends want to get together at the skate park or want to visit a movie at the mall, this is the time when most people are going to be really social.
Consider including your friend in conversations in text and making any firm plans in text, so your friend is able to read these plans and review them.
When a lot of people are talking at once, it can be very difficult for a deaf or hard of hearing person to keep up. If plans are being made rapid fire, it’s hard for someone who is deaf to figure them out, or keep up. They may not want to be feel they’re making a nuisance of themselves by asking people to repeat what they said or confirm what the plans are.
Reiterating plans for your friend afterwards can help, as can keeping final plans to text.
Additionally, there are a lot of games that can be played that require no hearing at all. Card games and board games are a popular way to pass time and involve more reading than they do hearing.
In terms of exercise, a game of soccer or basketball is a good way to get moving for everyone, and it’s usually not overly difficult for the hearing impaired to play. If your friend has removed their hearing devices to play sports, it is always helpful to speak out to your teammates, the opposition, and the referee/umpire if your friend did not hear the whistle or instructions and continues to play. During play you can call out “stop” and encourage everyone to stop so your friend realises the whistle or call went.
In Social Settings
In general social settings such as when hanging out outside of school, there are a few things you may need to be aware of when hanging out with a deaf friend. It can be easy to forget that if you turn away from a deaf friend, they may have difficulties understanding you. Further, for those who have hearing aids, talking louder rarely helps, enunciating clearly does.
Being around a deaf person in a busy environment (like a food hall) may mean that you need to repeat yourself more. Technology has advanced to the point that there’s nothing wrong with just texting back and forth – so this is ideal when in a noisy environment.
Our tips today are all about social inclusion and being a good friend. You can make a huge difference for your friend by creating a more inclusive environment when you see them being challenged by the situation. It’s not about babysitting someone or making concessions for them; it’s about having empathy and truly enjoying your friend’s company. Everyone needs a little help sometimes. Understanding how someone needs help is one of the best ways to create genuine, meaningful relationships.