Diverse Abilities

Gina Martin

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Hearing Disabilities

handsketchThere are a few main terms used to describe people experiencing hearing loss. Deaf, Hard of Hearing, someone experiencing hearing loss, and deaf blind. The majority of people in the Deaf community prefer not to use the term “hearing impaired,” so avoid it unless the person specifies that they prefer it.

Like all other disabilities, hearing disabilities have a wide variety of causes and degrees. It is important to remember that a person may require or use assistive devices when communicating, such as hearing aids, technology, pen and paper, or other devices.

Some ways to communicate are through lip reading, American Sign Language (ASL), texting, writing, or through an interpreter.

Hearing disabilities may restrict language development because it’s difficult to reproduce sounds you can only partially hear, or not at all.

Helpful tips

- Be sure to have the person’s attention before speaking to them.

- Face the person whom you are speaking to.

- Do not put anything in front of your mouth or turn your head when you’re speaking to them.

- Speak to the person and not to the interpreter or person they are with.

- Never yell, slow your speech down, or exaggerate your speech unless you are asked to.

- You can ask the person, including in writing, what method of communication is preferred.

- Be prepared to offer information in an alternative format. Writing it down, texting, taking the person directly where they need to go, etc.

- Please repeat or rephrase if you are not sure the person understands you.

- If there is a hearing ear dog or other service animal, do not pet, make eye contact with, feed, speak to, or distract the animal.

- Do not show your impatience; communication for many people with auditory disabilities is difficult because often their first language is not English, it’s sign language.

- Learning the alphabet in American Sign Language allows you to finger spell the words and communicate with anyone who uses ASL.

- Bell relay services provides interpreters for phone calls translating speech to text and vice versa. 1-800-855-0511(voice to TTY)

No two people experiencing hearing loss hear at the exact same tone or frequency. If you are curious about what they hear, please ask the person you are curious about so that you gain accurate information about that person. During the natural aging process, hearing loss is very common and can happen to anyone.

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