Staff awareness & help

What a difference it can make to enjoy a conversation without being tripped up by hearing issues.

Given that ideal hearing and listening conditions are seldom available, especially in busy public places, the difference in being able to understand what’s said or not, can come down to one of two things:

  • the availability of appropriate assistive equipment
  • the communication skills of the person or people you are speaking with

On average one in six of the customers or service users passing through the doors of a commercial or public establishment will have hearing loss. This will be one in four or even one in three if the majority of customers or service users fall into the over 60s bracket.

The value, benefit and importance of staff having good communication skills cannot be over-emphasised.

Being aware

It doesn’t have to take much for staff interacting with the general public to be more effective in engaging with those who have hearing loss. The most essential first step is for them to be aware that hearing loss might be an issue for the person they are speaking with. This isn’t something they are likely to know simply by looking at the person.

They should be alert to customers and service users who:

  • say ‘pardon’ or ‘I didn’t quite catch that’ more than once
  • glance at written information to follow what’s being said e.g. the electronic display at the till-point in a shop
  • explicitly state that they have hearing difficulties
  • are with someone who is helping to interpret for them, perhaps a family member of a communication support worker

Make conversation flow

There are lots of simple and effective ways to make conversation flow more easily when speaking with someone who you know, or suspect, to have hearing loss. Here are some tips:

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Keep your face visible – many people like to see the words being spoken and some rely entirely on lipreading. Facial expressions also assist understanding.

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Attract the person’s attention before speaking so they can catch the beginning of what’s said and not just the ending.

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Move to a location where there is as little background noise as possible.

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Make the subject of the conversation as clear as possible and avoiding unnecessary waffle.

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Be happy to repeat things or to say things in a different way, recognising that some words can be difficult to hear.

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Avoid shouting as this can be very uncomfortable for hearing aid users.

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Offer to write down tricky words or important facts.

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Be aware that people of all ages can have hearing loss and you typically won’t be able to see if they are using hearing aids or not.

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Be sensitive to their dignity and recognise that they may not want to broadcast their hearing difficulty.

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Adapt and adjust to the needs of the individual as hearing loss varies considerably from person to person. 

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A common issue

Around 10 million people in the UK have hearing difficulties.

Most have developed hearing loss at some stage in their adult life.

Most have mild or moderate loss.

About 800,000 people in the UK have severe or profound hearing loss.

250,000 have both hearing and visual impairment.

Very few people are able to use sign language. 

45,000 children have hearing loss.

Most are reluctant to highlight the hearing difficulties they experience.

Large numbers avoid situations that involve listening in noisy environments. 

People of all ages have hearing difficulties, including 3.7 million of working age.

Awareness training for staff

Ideas for Ears offers staff training to businesses and organisations so they can they can learn more about the hearing needs of customers and the practical steps that can be taken ensure people of all hearing abilities can access and enjoy their facilities and services. 

To find out more, drop us a note.