Would you rather not be able to hear or not be able to see? That’s a common question people ask each other, but imagine having to live with either one of those disabilities. Those with either one need a lot of our love, support, and understanding. But, to offer all those things, you have to understand what hurdles they’re facing and know what you can do to help.

Here are twelve things that are crucial to remember if you have deaf people in your life.

1. Be close to deaf people

Of course you should be close to your deaf friends emotionally, but this tip is strictly about being close to deaf people physically. The nearer you are to them, the better of a chance they have to hear the words you’re speaking or read your lips. So, stay close to your loved one who is hard of hearing.

2. Be loud enough for deaf people to hear you

Deaf people can’t hear as well as most other folks, so naturally you’ll have to speak louder for them to understand you. That doesn’t mean you should just shout at them; that comes across as aggressive. Instead, being a little louder than normal will project your voice and make it easier for deaf people to hear you. The website DeafTalk has a great resource to help you better understand sound level for deaf people.

3. Prepare deaf people for loud sounds

Loud sounds can be very disruptive for deaf people. Whenever you anticipate a lot of noise, be sure to warn the deaf person you’re with that it’s about to come so they can prepare for it.

4. Separate your words

Deaf people rely a lot on reading others’ lips. For that reason, to make it easier for them, it’s good if you sound out each word in a way that a deaf person can distinguish them.

5. Keep conversations with deaf people focused

A scatterbrained discussion is a huge burden for deaf people. They’re following your words not just through sound or reading your lips but also through intuition. If you change the subject unexpectedly or do something else unpredictable, you’re making it harder for deaf people to understand you.

6. Lead deaf people to somewhere they can “hear”

This is pretty simple. Help get your deaf loved one somewhere where they can best hear the main speaker, read their lips, or preferably both.

7. Explain their needs to others

Most people haven’t read this list of tips, so it’s usually up to you to explain to others what your loved one will need from them.

8. Keep an eye on what they can and can’t understand

In order to constantly improve your communication with someone who is deaf, take notice when they have trouble understanding you. Think about what you said and why it may have been difficult for them to comprehend, and adjust accordingly.

9. Be willing to communicate differently

Talking is the easiest way for a lot of us to communicate, but not so much for deaf people. Embrace communication via texts or email or something else visual to make their lives a little easier.

10. Talk in places that are quieter and more private

Identify locations where there will be as little disruption as possible for those with hearing problems. Even the sounds many of us filter out, such as traffic or background music, can be distracting, so be sure the places you pick have as little of that as possible.

11. Be aware of visual cues

Deaf people largely depend on visual language, which makes something like a smile more valuable than ever and an unintended frown more problematic. Keep your visual cues in mind at all times because that’s one of the main ways deaf people are going to interpret what you’re thinking or feeling.

12. Display sympathy during the hard times

Know how to bolster up their spirits when deaf people need your support during the periods when they are most struggling with their disabilities. A few words of sympathy can go a long way. Your friendship and companionship is the most powerful thing you can offer anyone, especially those with disabilities. Never forget that.

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