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Choice of room for addressing group with hearing loss

Why soft furnishings help

Most people with hearing problems, given the choice, would like to be in a room which, first and foremost, doesn't echo. If you have normal hearing, you will probably assume that no rooms echo to a worrying extent, and of course you are right that you won't hear exact words coming back at you. However, room surfaces reflect sound and they do so out of step with one another. This causes interference and distorts the sound that a deaf person is trying to understand.

Sound reflects from hard surfaces and is absorbed by soft ones. So do what you can to eliminate hard surfaces where feasible. Ideally this means a carpeted room, full curtains and upholstered chairs, etc. Never have rigid frame chairs on a bare floor and expect anyone with a hearing problem to put up with the noise of them being dragged around. This can be extremely painful.

Room shape and seating arrangement

If you are catering for some sort of talk to a large number of deaf people, obviously the seating should be as close as possible to whoever is going to speak. This means that a square room is preferable to a long narrow one, and a half moon arrangement of a few rows of seats is better than lots of short rows one behind another.

Use of loudspeakers

You may wonder about using a loudspeaker system, but this needs care. All loudspeakers distort. How much depends on a number of factors, but bear in mind that all of them do distort to some extent and that what deaf people want is not so much increased loudness as increased clarity. Furthermore, at high volumes the sound from loudspeakers can be painful.

So don't use loudspeakers unnecessarily. If you must use them, do trials first, but never, never leave the trials until all the deaf people are in the room.

Use of loop systems

The above points should help for people with only slight hearing loss.

However, for those with more severe hearing loss, who will be wearing hearing aids, a room with a good loop system is far and away the best choice. Do check it out in advance, though, with whoever is responsible for it. It will help to have read the page on loop systems as too many have been produced down to a price and are ineffective.

Finally

Finally, no amount of care in selecting or furnishing a room can make up for mumbled, quiet presentation.

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Disclaimer: The information on this site is for a lay audience and I cannot be responsible for errors or omissions. The views, strategies, advice and suggestions etc are based on my personal experience and are not necessarily appropriate for anyone else. They should, hopefully, stimulate individuals to develop their own strategies.