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With roots trailing back to President Nixon’s creation of the first National Volunteer week circa 1974, National Volunteer Month officially landed on calendars in April of 1991 with President George H.W. Bush’s 1000 Points of Light campaign. 

Volunteerism is woven into the bedrock of American activism, supporting communities both large and small. In one 2011 figure, the Corporation for National and Community Service valued the over 8.1 billion hours tallied that year at $173 billion. 

While the sheer numbers of people involved and the economic impact of volunteerism has grown over the years, sometimes people can forget about the diverse set of skills needed to ensure we’re keeping our volunteer organizations inclusive to people of all backgrounds. 

For those of us in the audiology community, we’re particularly concerned about those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, especially in the pandemic era when masks are making it even more difficult for people to communicate. Over 48 million Americans have hearing loss, and that statistic is on the rise.

If you’re considering joining the volunteer force in any fashion, consider purchasing a clear protective face mask so you don’t lose lip-reading and facial cues. You can also leverage speech-to-text apps on your smartphone and employ these general tips for communicating with those that may have trouble hearing. 

Face the deaf or hard-of-hearing person directly, on the same level and in good light whenever possible. 

Do not talk from another room.
It is important when communicating with someone who has a hearing loss that they can see you. 

Speak clearly, slowly and distinctly,
but don’t exaggerate volume or mouth movements. Shouting can distort the sound of speech and over-active facial cues can be hard to read. 

Say the person’s name before beginning a conversation.
This gives the deaf or hard-of-hearing person a chance to focus their attention before beginning a discussion. 

Avoid talking too rapidly.
Also, give the deaf or hard-of-hearing person plenty of time to be sure you’re being understood before moving on. 

If the deaf or hard-of-hearing person hears better with one ear,
make an effort to remember which ear is better and position yourself accordingly. 

Decrease background noise wherever possible.
If there is a television or radio on nearby, this could make it more difficult for the deaf or hard-of-hearing person to understand what you’re saying. 

If the deaf or hard-of-hearing person has difficulty understanding a particular word or phrase, attempt to say the same thing with different words. Some words can be more difficult to hear depending on the type of hearing loss.

Successful communication requires the efforts of all people involved in the conversation. Even when the person with a hearing loss utilizes hearing aids and active listening techniques, it is crucial that others involved consistently use good communication strategies.

To learn more about successful communication strategies within the hearing loss community, call Precision Hearing at 352-765-8008 today to talk to our expert audiology team. Or, learn more about your hearing health by visiting

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.