Did you make a new friend who is deaf or hard of hearing? Have an old friend who for some reason is losing theirs? It happens, and dealing with the communication issues can be frustrating at the very least. Here are three simple tips that can reduce a lot of the frustration for both of you.
1. Make good use of Instant Messengers.
Download one or two and use them in place of a phone. If your friend has a PC, this can make them a lot more comfortable. Most deaf people see, and read much better than they hear. The ability to understand you and respond without the stress of trying to figure out what you are saying is just priceless, and it’s much much cheaper than getting a TTY ! This is especially useful for import information, such as meeting times or directions. Yahoo, MSN, and AOL, all have excellent Free Instant Messenger systems.
2. If you both have a cellphone, send SMS or text messages rather than voice mail.
Few things are more annoying than getting a voice mail and not being able to hear or understand a word of it, much less who it’s from ! Many deaf or hard of hearing people carry cell phones for a variety of reasons, and many of them are SMS enabled. If you need to send an import message, text it !
3. Learn some sign language.
It’s a sad fact, but many deaf people do not learn sign language simply because they feel there is no one to sign to them ! Learning even a small bit can help communications immensely. Even if your friend has hearing aids there will be times when they are not able to have them in (when they are asleep, showing or swimming) Learning things that you might need to tell them at these times can be a lot of help. Some hard of hearing people have certain times and places ( large open spaces, like a hospital emergency room for instance ) where their ability to hear suddenly drops because of the room’s acoustics. If you want to be especially helpful and save your friend some embarrassment, learn to sign some of the things they might need to know then.
Above all, remember that deaf people can’t HEAR you ! While this may sound obvious, fully hearing people do have a tendency to forget or not realize quite what that means. And it’s easy to forget, often there is no obvious sign of deafness. You can’t tell just by looking at some one that they can’t hear. Try to be understanding if the phrase, “I’ll call you”, solicits a groan. Keep in mind that since the deaf can’t hear you, they need to in some way See what you have to say. Making sure they can will alleviate a lot of frustration, embarrassment and potential mishaps. And it will leave a lot more room for fun in your relationship !