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If You Aren't Hard of Hearing...

...you just don't understand.

by Brooks Gardner
May 10, 2006

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If You Aren't Hard of Hearing...

'Speech is for the convenience of those who are hard of hearing; but there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout.' Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). In this quotation, Thoreau cites the problem with being hard of hearing. The first reaction to a hard of hearing person is to speak louder. Many times speaking louder leads to an embarrassing situation. I believe that understanding of the hard of hearing person is important to all Americans, including the hard of hearing, need more training and sensitivity.

American society has to accept responsibility for making the lives of Americans with Disabilities more conducive to their inclusion as participating citizens. It often appears to me that the hard of hearing have an especially tough task. At least it is for me. How often have I turned to my wife trying to get translation to something that remained unheard for me? How often have I cupped my ear to hear better, or asked to have something repeated, or just tuned out the proceedings because I had become lost, how many times have I left a concert or a meeting because I couldn't hear. Please don't think this is nothing but a trip in self-indulgence and self pity. I was talking with my audiologist the other day and she explained that she could not truly realize the affect your hearing has on your whole self. Psychiatrist will tell you that being hard of hearing can acerbate depression and similar mental diseases.

Hearing difficulties lead to many other stumbling blocks and many of these stumbling blocks can be lessoned with some fairly simple concepts. When you are talking to a hard of hearing person make sure you face him. Most people who are hard of hearing read lips, if they know it or not. Do not automatically turn up the volume. It can really be embarrassing. Moving your lips and slowing your speech are good examples. Teenagers often have difficulty communicating with the hard of hearing. They can say a page full of sentences with out moving their lips. Even a hearing person has trouble hearing.

Training must take place in all walks of life. Programs for educating staff members in health care settings should include training for staff on communication skills and the resources available to meet these needs, and be sure that staff members have access to information resources required for deaf/hard of hearing patients and make training in effective communication and Deaf/Hard of Hearing issues part of certification and licensing for auxiliary and support medical staff.

Professional organizations and licensing and certifying boards should give credit for CEU's to be earned for deaf/hard of hearing health related studies and for recertification of public school teachers. The Deaf/Hard of Hearing must learn how to clearly express needs - this would include needs for adequate communication, appropriate use of emergency services (ambulance, ER). All professionals must learn to be sure that the Deaf/Hard of Hearing understand. We must teach our children to respect all people, We must learn that not understanding and often confusion is part of the life of a person who is hard of hearing.

I hope you are beginning to understand some of the hurdles that the hard of hearing tackle every day. Every one has to develop a sensitivity toward all people with disabilities and learn how to deal with them. Just remember unless you are hard of hearing, you just do not understand.


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Phala Partin Hay from Bedford, TX writes:
May 10, 2006
Hear, hear! Brooks, pun intended. As a hard of hearing person I truly appreciate your words. So many times I just smile and say 'uh huh' or 'oh yes.' I keep the caption on the television on at all times. I try to stand next to someone with my 'good' ear toward them. It is almost impossible to follow the conversation in a large group of folks - that's when I either tune them out or grin and shake my head and pretend I am following the conversation.

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