Good practice to assist individuals with hearing loss
This good practice guide is to help create an inclusive meeting where individuals may have a range of hearing loss. Some may use assistive technology such as hearing aids and loops, others may lip-read and some may use signing or a combination of these.
Communications and face coverings
Face covering can be a barrier to people with hearing loss. There are different types of face coverings:
- Clear plastic or have a clear plastic panel. These can mist up as when a person speaks/breathes which will block the visualisation of the mouth.
- Face-shields. Some people find these suitable but one thing to bear in mind is that overhead lighting can cause glare and have the same effect as trying to look at a person when you have the sun shining in your eyes.
- Fabric face covering. If you are communicating with someone with hearing loss while wearing one of these, it is suggested that you keep your distance, hold the front of your mask and drop the mask to reveal your mouth. Once you have finished speaking, the mask can be put back in place. It is recommended that you only touch the front of the mask (not your skin, hair etc) and pull it down, talk, then replace. You should sanitise your hands before and after touching your mask.
Some people with hearing loss may use a speech to text app on their phone to help with communicating. These have limitations and may not pick up speech if someone has a strong accent and is also wearing a face covering.
This guidance is to help create an inclusive meeting where individuals may have a range of hearing loss. Some may use assistive technology such as hearing aids and loops, others may lip-read and some may use signing or a combination of these.
If possible establish with the hearing impaired individual the strategies that are most useful to them.
For online meetings, for example via Zoom or Google Meet, ensure the auto-captions are used. See the Virtual meetings - captioning guidance.
1. Chair to:
- ensure only one person speaks at a time.
- give regular summary of discussion and clarity re progression of meeting eg to indicate when moving on to the next agenda item.
- remind participants of the good practice points in 2. below if necessary.
2. All participants to:
- indicate they are about to speak by raising their hand.
- speak as normal and clearly.
- look up when speaking.
- ensure their faces are not obscured by their hands/papers.
- try not to block the view of others.
- indicate to the Chair when they have missed any parts of the discussion or require a brief summary.
3. Committee Secretaries and meeting administrators to:
- carefully plan the seating in the room. There should be an unobstructed line of vision to all meeting participants as far as possible. This will also aid anyone who is lip reading.
- schedule a short break (10 minutes) if the meeting is longer than an hour.
To reduce background interference and noise, mobile phones should be turned off if possible, projectors and/or PCs only activated for presentations, paper-rustling/rustling food wrappers and pen-clicking, finger tapping etc. to be kept to a minimum
If papers are tabled a reasonable period of reading time should be given to ensure those who lip-read do not miss out on any discussion
It will be helpful to the individual with hearing loss to sit where they can see all participants if possible and where the lighting is best for them to help with lip-reading. This may include sitting opposite the Chair with any windows behind them, having the room layout changed to reduce the distance between themselves and other attendees and request additional lighting if the room is too dark.
Revised November 2021