20% of your experience as a human being is sound. Conversation, music, and background noise are all part of your sensory experience that make up your worldview and understanding. Imagine one day if you lost your hearing. Without the support of a support system like a language and people who understand it, life would become a terrifying and disconnected experience. The chaos of not being able to communicate, not knowing what people were saying to you and the loss of the subtle cues of your environment would be isolating and confusing. Not being able to hear the voices of the people that you love or the sound of the rain hitting the roof would be significant emotional losses. Although not hearing your alarm in the morning wouldn't be the worst thing. Joking aside, hearing loss or being born deaf is something that is very misunderstood in mainstream society. The voice of those that are deaf or hard of hearing must be heard louder so that we can better accommodate and facilitate these individuals in our community.
Deafness is not being able to hear at all whereas hard of hearing (HOH) means that an individual retains some of their hearing ability. Some of the ways that you can become deaf or HOH are injuries to the ear, prolonged loud noise, pregnancy, being born that way, and illness. There are many misconceptions that the hearing community has projected onto the deaf and hard of hearing. Not all deaf and HOH people can read lips, in fact, many cannot, and for good reason. Only 30-40% of the English language can be understood through lip-reading. Deaf people and HOH are not less intelligent and American Sign Language (ASL) is not an “easier language”. ASL is a language with syntax and grammatical structure. It is formally recognized and a beautiful way to express yourself. Deaf culture has its own language rules, humor, and understanding. ASL should be seen as any other language like Spanish.
Many people who are hearing impaired but not completely deaf can benefit from hearing aids. A hearing aid is a small electronic piece of technology that you wear in or behind your ear. It enables sounds to be louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in everyday activities. Though hearing aids have the potential to help many, only one in five people who need them use them. There are many reasons for this the main one being cost. Hearing aids are extremely costly, they can range anywhere from $300-10,000 dollars. This addition to the average cost of living is just too high for many people.
Life for Relief and Development has been an active advocate and facilitator for the hearing impaired globally and wants people to be able to hear again through our Hearing Aid Projects. These projects provide free hearing aids with a professional fitting for those eligible all over the world through a project called “Here to Hear.” It is important that people are able to have access to the medical services and technologies they need to thrive in life.
One social media influencer and musician, Cheyloe describes her experience of getting hearing aids for the first time. “I acquired bionic ears! For the first time in a long time, people would pay me compliments and ask questions and I was able to respond confidently and quickly. Social situations no longer scare the heck out of me. I am here in the moment with you and it is so good to be here”
There are many people who are deaf and are unable to hear even with the help of a hearing aid. There are also those who are hard of hearing and choose not to receive a hearing aid because they prefer their cultural identity as an HOH and other forms of communication. It is important that these people also receive the support they need to grow and feel accepted in society. One of the biggest hindrances to this is the lack of understanding in society of what it is like to be deaf as well as a dire need for more representation in media and politics. The deaf and HOH are people just like everyone else and they want to be treated like it. Being able to hear should not affect someone's ability to be heard. We must strive to recognize the innate humanity in us all, the desire to connect and understand each other through inclusivity and compassion.