Anne McIntosh: 12 tips for making your home more communication-friendly!

Posted on July 28, 2017

Us deaf people put a lot of emphasis on sign language, hearing aids and electronic communication to cope with our hearing loss; but, what about looking at the space where you spend most of your time- your home?

Is your home designed in such a way that communicating with a hearing loss is maximized? Here are 12 tips to make your home more communication-friendly (or what to look for if you are buying or building a home in the future).

Tip #1- Kitchen is where the “heart” of your home is

Move the sink away from the window so you don’t have your back to family and friends during get togethers.

I have my sink in a work island in the middle of the kitchen. I can be at the sink and still watch captioned television or converse with people gathered around the dining room table!

Because the sink is in the middle of the work island, I put the dishwasher on one side and the cook top on the other so I have everything all together – and I can see and lipread everyone clearly.

Tip #2 – Use pots and pans with clear lids

Cannot hear the water boiling? Are you constantly cleaning the hob from mishaps that boil over and spill?

For years, I have used clear lids on my pots and pans and they have made a world of difference. Whenever I am cooking, I can talk to family or friends about interesting topics and not, “What? Oh, I have a pot boiling over.”

Tip #3 – Keep your downstairs space open-plan

Consider not putting in a wall that separates the dining room from the kitchen; have open space.

The openness will enlarge the area and also allow more visual sight lines. Use columns if support is needed. Visually, your kitchen will look larger and so will your dining room!

Tip #4 – Plan where everyone will sit during mealtimes

Seating in the dining room is usually not “planned” but as a person with hearing loss, you can maximize your ability to hear conversation by putting the person whom you have the most difficulty hearing closest to you (either in your better ear or across from you visually).

Ironically, the person whom you can hear the best you will want to put further away.

A round table enables you to see everyone well. You can sit towards the middle to be an equal distance from most speakers. Or, you may opt to sit in a “leadership” chair that nonverbally says, “I have the talking stick.”

Tip – the arm chairs at the end of the table tends to be the “leadership” chair!

Tip #5 – Use doors with windows in them

French glass doors are wonderful if you need a door but do not want to cut out visual cues. When closed, the door will assist in cutting out unwanted background noise.

If you truly want privacy from time to time, you can always add blinds to the door. I used French glass doors on the nursery so I could visually check on the baby without having to open/close the door (and possibly waking the baby).

I use French glass doors in my home office; I can be “a part” of the household, as needed but I could always close the door if the house got too loud – or if I needed quiet to get work done.

Tip #6 – Add rear-view mirrors to the edge of your computer screen

Mirrors on the desktop computers are wonderful, whether at home or work. I spend a lot of time working from a computer and I get focused on what is on my screen to the point of “zoning out” external visual and auditory cues.

To make sure no-one startles you from behind, you can use mirrors. Effective. Small. Low tech.

Tip #7 – Use clear shower doors

Clear shower stalls are an absolute must-have for people with hearing loss. If your hearing aid and/or cochlear implants are out, you cannot hear the water running. Where is your partner?

A clear shower will allow you to see at a glance that someone is in the shower. If you apply anti-fog agents to the glass, you can even converse with someone in the shower to give him/her that quick message.

Tip #8 – Use ‘half-walls’

Half-walls will allow “openess” but also sets boundaries. Many people crave the open-look but, they still need storage, shelving, and want rooms to have defined space. You can have all of this by utilizing half-walls.

Half-walls will allow you to define space and can provide the extra storage and shelving you may want in your “open” home without obstructing visual or auditory cues. The ability to see over the half-walls and see the person talking to you is a real bonus that adds accuracy to your communication.

Tip #9 – Use captions (or subtitles) on TV

Captioned television is our “radio.” Hearing people are all the time listening to their radio in the car, on the subway, or in the background at work.

Level the playing field to keep up with what is happening around the world by having easy access to captioned television.

With a full-time job, raising a family, and having other commitments, my schedule is full. I bet your plate runneth over, too. Therefore, I multi-task; I will have the captioned television on while relaxing in a hot bubble bath. I have little “wasted” time just watching television- I have gotten something else done, too.

I have a captioned television in the family room that I can see from the kitchen so if I am cooking on the cook-top, I can be watching the evening news, too.

Think about where you are in your home and where captioned televisions can be positioned so that you can stay aware and alert as to what is going on like your hearing family, friends, and neighbours.

Tip #10 – Make sure all your TVs display captions

Captioned television- going along with Tip #9, remember to make sure ALL of your televisions are captioned. I enjoy watching television with the volume muted so that I can hear other sounds such as the door bell, phone ringing, or someone talking to me.

I absorb the information better without all the background noise, loud music,and other auditory distractions that obstruct the message.

Tip #11 – Use clear glass in your outside front door for security

Clear glass doors that lock are an absolute must on every home- whether you have a hearing loss or not. The glass door will protect your main door from weather; the lock on the glass door is an added layer of security… and, on beautiful days, I open my main front door to let in gorgeous sunshine.

If the door bell rings, I can easily see who is at the door. I can also watch for any expected deliveries or company.

Tip #12 – Make paths to your house visible from inside the house

Do you have a pavement by your house? Does the path come in from the street straight to your home? You may want to reconfigure it so it comes across the yard to your front door.

By doing this, you are increasing the likelihood that if someone is outside walking up to your house, you may see them through a window in the home. Y

ou can then prepare yourself to go to the door and if you already know who the person is, you have a better idea of what he/she may be wanting to discuss with you.

This knowledge will enable you to follow the conversation more closely. I seem to communicate better when I know who I am talking with and what he/she will be discussing.

Read about the Communicator Clear Mask for medical professionals that Anne created here.

Dr. McIntosh is a college professor teaching communication classes.  She is problem-solver by nature and works to come up with creative solutions to challenging communication issues. She currently is working to educate medical and dental professionals about the new clear face masks that allows speech-reading. She hopes the average consumer will make The Communicator clear mask the “standard” go to mask, whether seeking protection from pollen, pollution, or heading to the doctor or dentist.

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

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