A hearing friendly home is a home like any other home: a place to eat, sleep, play and with the occasional chore or maintenance to be done. We want our homes to welcome us, to make us feel comfortable, to be a place we want to be, a safe place, a functional place, a peaceful place where we can hear what we need to hear, a place where everyone participates in conversations and solves issues.
When the home includes one or more people with hearing issues, some extra measures have to be taken in order to make the home comfortable. A hard of hearing person needs to be able to hear clearly. A lot of sounds that a person with normal hearing can disregard are actually noises to a hard of hearing person. Those “noises” can interfere with the HOH person’s ability to hear clearly and can put stress on that person when you want to communicate with that person. They can create kind of an echo to the HOH person, or they distort incoming sound, or they can totally erase incoming sounds. They can also disrupt the person’s enjoyment when that person wants to watch a TV show, listen to music, radio or an audio book.
The HOH person does have a responsibility to identify and communicate what those noises are. The normal hearing person must respect that those sounds are noises to the HOH person.
Some of those noises:
- running water
- fans and air purifiers
- noises from the fridge, freezer and other household appliances
- hair dryers
- dogs barking, cats meowing, birds singing, etc.-any pet demanding attention!
- creaks & groans from opening and closing doors (cupboards, cabinets, and so-on)
- ticking clocks, cuckoo clocks, etc.
- outside noises: garbage & delivery trucks, construction, lawnmowers and other landscaping tools
Have an conversation with other household members to identify their “noises”. You’ll see that even the normal hearing person identifies some of these as noises.
Did you know that when a person is trying to hear conversation, the first syllable or two are critical. If the person misses those sounds, she/he will struggle to understand what’s being said. If any noise drowns out those first syllables, it makes it very, very difficult fo be part of the conversation.
Making simple changes to your home can make your life, and the lives of those around you, much easier.
Start with some basic House Rules:
- If you want to talk to someone, you must go to that person.
- No calling from another room. You must have the person’s attention.
- You must ensure that there are no noises interfering with your speech and the person’s ability to hear you.
- House members must ensure that they are not creating any unnecessary noise.
Use the basic rules of Communicating with a HOH person:
- Face them.
- Don’t chew gum etc. when talking to them.
- Finish your sentence before expecting an answer and let the person finish a sentence before answering them.
- Only one person talks at once.
- Have conversations away from noisy areas.
- Invite only small groups of people at a time.
Then in each room, start with sources of noise:
- Buy appliances that are “quiet”. Check Consumer Reports to identify refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers, washing machines, clothes dryers, fans, air purifiers, vacuums, hair dryers, etc that are deemed “quiet”. Listen to friends’ appliances: do they sound quieter?
- Put in soft-close doors and drawers, which close without making a sudden noise.
- Check the acoustics in the room: high ceilings create echos and are not great for the HOH person, so don’t use this room for family gatherings or group settings; it will probably only work for one on one meetings.
- Hardwood floors and tiles are also not great for acoustics. Choose some attractive area rugs to cover those floors, and you’ll make the rooms much easier places in which to hear.
- Use soft materials for drapes and furnishings: they help reduce echoes.
- Often closing the drapes in a room will eliminate outside noises.
Designate rooms or areas of your house for specific purposes:
- Make a space in your home and call it the “conversation room”: it does not have a lot of traffic and it can be closed off from the rest of the house or away from “noisy” parts. This is where you can have conversations, and enjoy them.
- Have a TV or entertainment room: this one should have a door that closes.
- Encourage the normal hearing person to use headphones to listen to TV and/ or the music system.
- Encourage the HOH person to use a wireless transmitter to send the audio signal to his/her hearing aids. Or turn on the closed captioning and the sound off.
- For music, listen on a Smart phone or iPod using the Bluetooth feature to connect directly to the hearing aids.
Always have ongoing conversations about how to eliminate noise and echos in your house.
Check the lighting in each room. A HOH person must be able to see a person’s face clearly in order to hear the conversation to the best of his/her ability.
- Lamps are sometimes better than overhead lighting.
- Rooms well lit by natural light are healthy but aren’t often ideal for the HOH person.
- Play around with seating so that the HOH person sits in such a place that each and everyone’s face is well lit.
- The HOH must be able to read people’s lips so don’t place the other people in front of a window or other bright light.
- Often closing blinds and drapes and using lamps is more effective.
For Safety for the HOH person on his/her own: there are lots of signalling devices on the market such as First Alert, Silent Call that provide either a visual or tactile signal that the doorbell has sounded or the phone is ringing or the smoke alarm is active or the alarm clock is trying to wake you up. Flashing strobe lights, bed shakers and wearable buzzers are some of the options.
- Consider having a loop system installed in one of the rooms of the house.
- Consider investing in the Phonak Roger system.