Interior design for more efficient communication with hard-​of-​hearing people

March 7, 2016
Design interieurI have been working as an interior designer for 25 years. Since I am hard of hearing and a hearing aid wearer myself, I have to deal with the daily inconveniences caused by this condition. My disability has influenced the way I work, as well as my fields of interest. In this article, I will give a few tips on how to optimize your environment if you are hard-of-hearing or live with someone with hearing loss.

First of all, remember that hard-of-hearing people must be able to “see” noise. This will affect how a space is organized.

Open spaces

Since open spaces foster interaction and communication, they are the best option for areas like the kitchen, living room, and dining room. Keep the number of partitions to a minimum to lessen the sense of isolation, provide a clear view of all the rooms, and foster listening and visual contact.

The kitchen should be an “American-type” space featuring a central island with a view of the entire room. Test kitchens should be avoided because they are too linear and clustered, preventing sound circulation and visual contact.

Windows

The more windows and glass doors the better, because they add light to a room and allow you to see what is going on outside, including the arrival of visitors.

Choose window coverings made of light fabrics, like sheer curtains. Some types of sheers and curtains dampen the resonance effect, echo, and noise, thereby improving acoustic comfort, concentration, and well-being.

Lighting

Make sure to maximize natural light during the day, but also plan for efficient artificial lighting at night or on grey days. Even if we wear hearing aids, we often rely on speechreading. To be able to effectively lip read, our interlocutor’s face must be well-lit. Luckily, with so many beautiful, energy efficient lighting fixtures on the market, there are endless options!

Accessories

In any interaction, sight is very important for hard-of-hearing people. A strategically located mirror can prove very useful in this regard. It adds space and depth to the room, as well as valuable additional visual cues that provide information we would not have otherwise, reflecting the faces of speakers when they have their back turned, walk around, and exit or enter the room.

Since neutrality improves concentration, go with homogeneous shapes and materials, and paint all walls the same colour.

Opt for comfortable, low-lying furniture that creates no visual obstacles, and place furniture pieces close together. If you are like me and rely on speechreading to communicate, this will make interacting with others much easier!

I hope that these tips will help you improve your home’s layout. After all, doesn’t where we live reflect who we are?

Happy decorating!

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