As South Africa enters this unprecedented time, we are going to rely far more on telephonic communication and virtual conversations to connect with our loved ones. If you are hard-of-hearing or know of someone who is hard-of-hearing, consider this the next time you connect with them. Here are some helpful strategies to enhance your communication.

Visual cues– People who have a hearing impairment do not only rely on audio/ sound to communicate. They rely on visual cues such as lip-movements and body language. Instead of phoning use What’s App video call, Face Time or Skype. These provide the opportunity to see the person and benefit from their body language. This technology may seem daunting at first but it is very user friendly.

Pace– This is, if not, the most important communication strategy, whether it be during a telephone conversation or during a face-to-face conversation. Speak slowly and pause between sentences. Many people who have a hearing impairment require extra time to process the sound which they have received.

Articulation– It is important to pronounce your words clearly and do not swallow your words. Every phoneme is important, so make a concerted effort to say every sound which makes up a word.

Topic– State the topic which you are talking about. Make it clear. Try to avoid quickly switching from one topic to another. When we speak about a certain topic, we know the vocabulary associated to that topic; therefore, it makes it easier for the person with a hearing impairment to fill in the missing gaps or words they have not been able to hear clearly.

Reduce Background Noise– Try to find a quiet place to have a telephone conversation. The noise of people speaking in the background, music or wind noise masks the sound of your voice, making communication extremely difficult.

Patience– I cannot emphasise this enough. Patience is the name of the game. Repetition may be required many times and if you have already repeated yourself rather re-phrase what you have said and use other words to get the message across.

During the 21-day lockdown it is important for us show compassion to others through the way we communicate.

– Anne Budden