The ideal environment for someone with a hearing impairment

January 27, 2015 by Janie Durette

Environnement pour malentendant

When someone has a hearing impairment, it is important that he or she make some lifestyle adjustments to facilitate listening and improve communication, such as relearning how to focus on and pay attention to what people are saying. Here are some tips to improve everyday listening situations and facilitate conversation.

Tips for the home 

  • It is best to turn off the air conditioner, dehumidifier or air exchange system, so the person with the hearing impairment can hear what is being said.
  • During a family reunion, sources of noise like the radio or television should be turned off. To ensure the person with the hearing impairment can understand and take part in conversations at the dinner table, he or she should not be seated next to noisy children.
  • If someone wishes to say something to a hearing impaired person who is in another room, the speaker should position himself or herself in front of the person with the hearing impairment and make sure, before speaking, that his or her face is well lit.
  • During a conversation, introductory sentences like “I want to tell you something …” or “Let’s talk about the Mother’s Day present …” are helpful.

Tips for public spaces

  • It is best to reduce the space in a large room with partitions. If this is not possible, in a cafeteria for example, it is preferable to sit in a corner.
  • To help the hearing impaired person with lip reading, speakers should avoid placing their hands in front of their mouths.
  • In restaurants, booths help reduce background noise.
  • In conference rooms, people with hearing impairments should sit as close to the speaker as possible, to improve comprehension.

The sound environment can have a major impact on conversations between people who are hard of hearing and those around them. Certain factors can influence the ability to understand speech in a room. 

Voice sound waves bounce off the ceiling, floor and walls. The sound is perceived as signal repetition. It therefore seems less clear because of echoing, reverberation, resonance and interference.

Tips for reducing resonance in a room

The position within the environment

  • People with hearing impairments should avoid having their backs to a window.
  • It is better to be positioned against a wall instead of in the middle of the room.

Windows

  • Install thick curtains.
  • Install triple-pane windows.
  • Place blind slats at a slight angle, to let light into the room.
  • Avoid bare windows.

Walls

  • Avoid concrete and brick walls.
  • Put acoustic tiles or fabric panels on the walls.

Ceiling

  • Put acoustic tiles on the ceiling.

Floor

  • Use a thick carpet, cork flooring or acoustic tiles.

Furniture

  • Do not leave bookshelves empty.
  • Place metal filing cabinets on a side wall to reduce sound wave reflection.
  • Cover or decorate tables and desks made of glass or with reflecting surfaces.
  • Avoid large, smooth surfaces.
If you keep these few tips in mind, you will make it easier for a hearing impaired person to understand speech.
References :
– Clavet, O. Acoustique appliquée aux techniques du son. Paris: Casteilla, 2002.
– White, P. L’isolation, la correction acoustique et le monitoring: tome 2. Brussels: ACME, 1992.