17 Misconceptions about People with Hearing Loss - Part
By Janice Schacter
Editor: Here's Janice Schacter with some thoughts on misconceptions
about people with hearing loss. Janice is a retired attorney whose
daughter is hard of hearing, and she is the pro-bono Chair of the Hearing
Access Program. This article is reprinted with the author's kind
This is part one of two parts.
Misconceptions about people who are deaf or hard of hearing are common
place - some antiquated stereotypes, others are just incorrect
assumptions. It's easy enough to get the wrong idea as hearing loss can be
an invisible disability - unlike the wheelchair that signals a mobility
challenge. Whether it's a total stranger trying to make small talk in sign
language or a overly slowly articulating coworker or relative, it's time
we initiated the conversation that will correct misconceptions and remove
the stigma associated with deafness and hearing loss. This list of the
more common misconceptions there are many more - can be a good starting
point for that conversation.
1 EVERYONE WITH HEARING LOSS USES SIGN LANGUAGE AND READS LIPS.
Hearing loss spans across a spectrum from mild to completely deaf and not
all people with hearing loss communicate the same way. Communication
depends on a variety of factors, such as the degree of hearing loss,
whether a hearing aid or cochlear implant is used, the age at which the
person lost their hearing, the level of auditory training received, and
the nature of the listening situation. The majority of people with hearing
loss do not use sign language but it is still important to those whose
communication depends on it.
American Sign Language is a visual language with its own syntax and
grammar that is quite different from spoken and written English. Sign
language varies by country as well. A person with some knowledge of sign
language is not a substitute for a qualified interpreter who is trained to
transmit what is said clearly and accurately.
Some people with hearing loss read lips and others do not. Lip reading,
also called speech reading, is most helpful as a supplement to residual
hearing, even though many speech sounds are not visible on the lips. It
does help to face the person with hearing loss when speaking. Many people
can pick up visual clues even if they are not proficient at lip reading.
2 TALKING LOUDER WILL HELP A PERSON WITH HEARING LOSS TO UNDERSTAND.
Increasing the volume is only part of the solution; clarity is also
important. And there is a point where increasing the volume begins to
distort the quality of sound. To obtain sufficient clarity, people with
residual hearing may require sound to be transmitted from a microphone
directly to their ear via an assistive listening system. Sitting close to
the speaker can assist the listener (it facilitates lip reading) but is
not a substitute for an assistive listening system. Yelling and
over-articulating does not help because these distort the natural rhythm
of speech and make lip reading more difficult. A person who can hear
normally cannot determine whether the sound is adequate for a person with
3 HEARING AIDS AND COCHLEAR IMPLANTS RESTORE HEARING TO NORMAL.
A person does not obtain normal hearing by wearing a hearing aid or
cochlear implant. These are not solutions for hearing that are equivalent
to wearing glasses to correct poor eyesight. Hearing aids increase the
volume but only slightly enhance clarity by raising the volume in certain
frequencies. The improvement a cochlear implant makes can vary from
providing near-normal hearing to only gaining an awareness of
environmental sounds with no comprehension of what they mean. Results
depend on such factors as the individual's hearing history, length and
onset of deafness and age of implantation. People with hearing loss may be
able to understand and respond correctly many times by listening intently,
but they can miss important information. Furthermore, it can be tiring to
listen intently for a prolonged period.
4 PEOPLE WITH HEARING LOSS ARE STUPID, MUTE AND UNSUCCESSFUL.
People with hearing loss have the same range of intelligence as the
general hearing population. People with untreated, or inadequately
treated, hearing loss may respond inappropriately since they may have not
heard what was said.
Some people with hearing loss can speak and others cannot; again, there
are many factors at play. A person who speaks well doesn't necessarily
hear well. And it can be frustrating or upsetting when others remark on
how well they speak and even more so if the remark is directed to a
bystander, rather than directly to the person with hearing loss.
People with hearing loss are fully employable but may need certain
accommodations for effective communication, as required by the Americans
with Disabilities Act. It is always best to ask the person what type of
accommodation is needed.
When conversing via telephone and using a relay service, there may be
delays for interpreting or transcribing. People who are not familiar with
relay services may wrongly assume that the lag time reflects on the level
of intelligence of the person with hearing loss.
5 PEOPLE WITH HEARING LOSS TEND TO BE OLDER ADULTS.
Of the 36 million people with some form of hearing loss, only 30 percent
are 65 or older.
6 PEOPLE WITH HEARING LOSS ARE DEFINED BY THEIR HEARING LOSS.
Hearing loss is a characteristic, like the color of one's eyes. It does
not define a person. The person should be listed first, for example, a
person who is hard of hearing, a person who is deaf, or a person with
hearing loss. (See People First).
Here's Part Two