In 2021, it became apparent that there are some issues for the hard of hearing in some of our new venues.
At Eltham Guide Hall, there is clearly an echo which, although lessened by the deployment of moving blankets, is still a substantial problem for some people. After consulting a number of people, the view seems to be that, whilst the room will never be good acoustically because of the lack of insulation in the ceiling and the hard floor, there is potential to improve things by investing in some soft furnishings. We are consulting further to investigate exactly what options to pursue.
At Eltham Central Pavilion, the view seems to be that the large size of the classroom is bound to cause hearing issues for some people, that the room is quite good acoustically given its size, and that there are no obvious ways of improving the acoustics. Rather, the best way forward is to develop some advice for tutors to help ease the problems for their participants with hearing problems. We have also acquired some individual hearing loops (read more).
U3A member Catherine Blakey, who is herself hearing impaired, has kindly developed the advice for tutors, as set out below.
Hearing loss is the second most debilitating problem in ageing lifestyles, after mobility, and many of our members will be hearing impaired. Different hearing-impaired people will have different levels of communication skills as these depend on years of practice, degree of hearing loss, aids used and confidence to request help. However, a common theme is that everyone who communicates uses some lip/speech reading, albeit not necessarily consciously. If you look at the person talking to you, you can pick up much more than just the oral/aural message. In this context, here are some ideas that should help you help you class participants hear you successfully.
- If you are in a conversation interactive group, make sure that all participants can see each other when speaking. For example, seat people in a circle rather than in lines or rows and seat them closer rather than farther apart (consistent with Covid distancing requirements).
- Make sure your face is clearly visible, even if reading notes.
- Keep your hands away from your mouth while speaking.
- Ensure that there is enough light for your face to be clearly seen.
- Move away from, or reduce, any background noises.
- Speak naturally; don't exaggerate because this distorts the message.
- If misunderstood, re-phrase rather than just repeat.
- Understand that some people need to employ clarification tactics with questions or re-wording. It is not a lack of attention to your message.
- Ensure that your topic is actually being understood as hearing-impaired people often use charade techniques to give the impression that they have understood.
- A sense of humour often overcomes some of the difficulties experienced.