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Be aware of what you say — and how you say it. You may be talking to someone with a hearing impairment and not even know it.

Be aware of what you say; how you say it

Recent discoveries in the research and development of hearing aids have led to unprecedented advancements in such technology, which is helping many Americans challenged with hearing loss to live fuller lives.

Some hearing aids are so sophisticated, it's quite possible you won't know when you're speaking with someone living with a hearing problem. While these advancements have pioneered the industry, they can just as easily lead to communication mistakes from friends and loved ones.

Following are a few helpful hints and etiquette suggestions to better facilitate communication with individuals with hearing loss:

Get their attention first. Before you begin to converse, get the attention of the individual so he can focus on what you are saying.

Call the individual's name. If there's no response, lightly touch him or her on the arm or shoulder, or wave your hand.

Don't cover your mouth. Keeping your hands or other objects away from your face gives the individual a chance to read your facial expressions and lip movements, which can increase understanding.

Also avoid chewing gum or smoking while talking, as your speech may be difficult to understand.

Speak clearly, but don't shout. Speaking in a natural tone of voice helps the individual detect clues from inflection, pitch and rhythm. Exaggerated lip movements do not help.

Shouting will just confuse the individual and the other people around you. Try re-phrasing your sentence if you're asked to repeat yourself.

Make eye contact. Face the person when you speak and try to position yourself so your faces are at the same level.

Looking directly at the person lets him or her detect visual cues more easily.

Your awareness coupled with the new technology in hearing aids can help individuals with hearing loss enjoy the world of hearing like never before.

New digital technology such as directional microphones can improve speech understanding for many individuals with hearing loss in a wide variety of noisy situations.

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