When it comes to a hearing disability, there are two main types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is affected by complications in the outer or middle ear. This can be triggered by outer or middle ear infections or malfunctions, a damaged ear drum or impacted ear wax. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, and it can be caused by ageing, exposure to loud noise, diseases such as meningitis and certain chemicals or medications, known as ototoxic medications. Any type of hearing loss can impact someone’s life in many ways, leaving them faced with many challenges. They experience and navigate the world much differently than those who have perfecting hearing, but how?
1. Public Announcements – Recall the last time you were at the grocery store or at school, and you heard an announcement over the PA system, giving you information that could be important. For someone with hearing loss, they will not be able to get the message, and at times will miss out on crucial information.
2. Slow Talkers – When it comes to human nature, we are more likely to slow down our speech when we are communicating with someone who has a hearing loss. We may have good intentions when doing this, but in reality, it can hinder lip reading. With time, those with a hearing loss have become adapted to reading the lips of someone who is talking at a normal speed, so slowing down one’s speech can cause a miscommunication.
3. Being in the Dark – Since those with a hearing loss rely heavily on visual stimuli, it can be a challenge for them to engage with others if there is not light present.
4. Being “jumpy” – Those with hearing loss rely on visuals and movements/vibrations to know if someone or something is approaching them, leaving them to get startled often. This feeling can cause them to always be on the ‘defense’ and have a ‘jumpy,’ feeling all the time.
5. Relying on touch – Those who do not have hearing loss are used to someone getting their attention by simply calling out their name; however, someone with a hearing loss does not have their ability, so a simple tap on the shoulder is a way to get their attention. Unfortunately though, those who are not acquainted with the community of those who have hearing loss, can sometimes be confrontational when they don’t get the attention of someone who is hard of hearing, by calling out his or her name.
6. Sign Language Misunderstandings – Many of us have the wrong idea that sign language is universal, but did you know that American and British Sign Language are quite different from one another? Just as we have many accents and slangs of a single language, Sign Language always carries this characteristic as well. With this said, when it comes to interpreters, there can be harm done with miscommunication, especially when it comes to hospital visits and legal matters.
7. Job Applications and Interviews – Unfortunately, many of those with a hearing impairment get their applications ignored when applying for jobs, because sadly, many employers find that it will be hard to accommodate their needs in the workplace. When one with a hearing loss does make it to an interview, many interviewers are often not prepared for this, and it can mess with the interviewee’s confidence.
8. Going to a Movie – When we go to a movie, we rarely see movies that have subtitles. This makes it hard for someone with hearing loss to have the chance to go out and enjoy a movie that may have just made it to theaters.
9. Caring for Hearing Aids – In order for one’s hearing aids to work properly, they have to be well-kept and maintained. This may entitle keeping spare batteries on one at all times, and because they cannot get wet, this can pose a problem in the middle of a rainstorm.
10.Depression and Anxiety – Studies show that those who have a hearing loss are twice as likely to suffer from psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. This could be from the feeling of isolation. Even though those with hearing loss have learned to adapt to certain everyday situations, they still face many challenges. How can we as a society better communicate with those who have a hearing loss? Below are some times on speaking to a person with hearing loss, as well as communication tips for someone with a hearing loss.
Tips on Speaking with Someone who has a Hearing Loss:
Get their attention
Face the person and stand close to them so they are able to read your lips
Do not cover your mouth or face
Raise your voice if needed, but refrain from shouting
Speak with expression and try to use as much hand, face and body movement
If needed, use a pen and paper to communicate
Communication Tips for Someone with a Hearing Loss:
Be open and let people know about your hearing loss
Do not be afraid to ask people to speak clearly when communicating with you
Ask questions about something you think or know you may have missed
If needed, do not be afraid to ask someone to rephrase the information
Article by: Hala Sanyurah