Caring. Compassionate. Funny. Loves God. Can’t wait until Fall when Starbucks comes out with their signature Pumpkin Spice Latte with coconut milk. This person I’m describing is my sister, and she is deaf. She endured a terrible sickness at the age of 1 that took away her hearing, but not her spirit. My family and I wanted to know her – her thoughts, her needs, her dreams and goals. We needed to be able to communicate effectively with her. In order to achieve this, my parents decided that we would all learn American Sign Language (ASL). Many people assume learning a new language to communicate with a deaf person will be difficult – if not impossible. However, it is very possible to learn American Sign Language. Regardless of your age, if you are willing to learn, you will discover that your loved one holds all kinds of amazing ideas and plans for adventure. You and your loved one will thrive! Here are some tips to make learning American Sign Language more successful:
- Use a normal speaking pattern. Over-enunciating makes it hard for a Deaf person to read your lips.
- Write it down if necessary. Some people are better at reading lips than others
- Look directly at the person you are communicating with. If you look away, a Deaf person may miss what you are saying.
- Speak in a normal tone of voice. Since a Deaf person cannot hear you, raising your voice doesn’t help.
- Try to find your own way to communicate. Although you can’t talk to one another, there are many other ways for you to communicate. You can use a pen and paper or even text to have a conversation.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a Deaf person to repeat themselves. The goal is clear communication and understanding. Asking to repeat something has better results and less frustration – for both parties.
- Be patient and inclusive. Imagine you are trying to understand a conversation that you want to be involved in, but are unable due to the conversation’s speed, number of people talking at the same time, and/or not being able to share your ideas with the group. By allowing enough time and considering the communication needs of everyone in the group, you ensure that everyone can participate fully.
- In a group conversation, take turns speaking. A Deaf person can only look at one individual at a time.
- Be clear and concise. Saying “I’m fine” can have many different meanings with subtle differences. For example “I’m fine” can mean
- I feel well
- I feel the same way I always feel
- I’m way too busy to know how I feel
- Don’t bother me
- Did you want to know about my emotional or physical well-being?
- You don’t care how I feel or would have stopped walking to listen
- Use body language and gestures. Deaf and hard of hearing people who use sign language are accustomed to using their hands and face to communicate. Gesturing and using clear facial expressions when speaking to a person with hearing challenges can help them understand what you’re saying. “Miming” is also acceptable if it helps to get a certain point across, but remember that mime is not the same as sign language.
- Accept that awkward moments happen. Even if you follow all of the above tips while speaking to a Deaf or hard of hearing person, they’ll probably still misunderstand you at some point. Don’t feel bad or stop. Just repeat yourself and continue the conversation. If they’re having trouble understanding a certain word or phrase, try using a different word, rephrasing what you said, or typing it on your phone.
- Resist the urge to give up when misunderstandings happen. A little effort on your part can make a big difference to someone, and chances are that you’ll benefit from the experience, too.
There are countless reasons why the Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) is a wonderful resource for Deaf individuals as well as those who want to learn more about Deaf culture.
For most people, hearing loss occurs very gradually. The process of getting hearing aids, however, is not gradual. You walk into the audiologist's office, and a few minutes later you're hearing! It takes the brain time to get adjusted to the new sounds you'll be hearing through the hearing aids. To make the adjustment process a little easier, start with easy situations and work your way up to more difficult listening environments.
Hearing loss may make conversational speech seem very soft, or may prevent a person from hearing certain speech sounds at all. This is why people with hearing loss often say they can hear people talking, but can’t understand what they’re saying. They may be able to hear some sounds, so they can hear the person’s voice, but the hearing loss is blocking out the sounds that are vital to understanding. Usually, when a person is diagnosed with a hearing loss, hearing aids are recommended. Hearing aids are designed to amplify the sounds that the person needs the most, the sounds that they are unable to hear due to the hearing loss. Unfortunately, hearing aids have limitations and will not restore hearing to normal. Hearing aids are only part of the hearing loss puzzle. The best solution to increase hearing and understanding at the same time is to pair hearing aids with effective communication strategies.
Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center audiologists are highly trained professionals. We have Doctoral and Master’s degrees in audiology and we have devoted our careers to helping you hear better. At CHSC, We believe that life is improved by successful communication. We are dedicated to helping people hear better so they can fully enjoy the people and activities that bring meaning to each day.
Impairments in hearing can happen in either frequency (the high or low pitch of a sound) or intensity (the volume of a sound), or both. For example, a person may not be able to hear very high-pitched noises like a whistle, or they may not be able to hear the TV unless the volume is turned up – or both. Hearing loss severity is based on how well a person can hear the frequency or intensities most often associated with speech. Severity can be described as mild, moderate, sever, or profound. Hearing loss can be congenital (occurring from the time of birth) or acquired (developing later in life after a period of normal hearing). Hearing loss can affect one or both ears – and in different degrees of severity in each ear. A loss that affects one ear is called a “unilateral” (one-sided) hearing loss. A loss that affects both ears is called a bilateral (two-sided) hearing loss.
A cochlear implant is a small, surgically implanted electronic device that can help to provide access to sound to people with severe to profound hearing loss and those who cannot hear or understand speech with hearing aids. While hearing aids make sound louder, cochlear implants directly stimulate the nerve fibers in the inner ear (cochlea). An implant does not create normal hearing; instead, under the appropriate conditions, it can give a deaf individual useful auditory understanding of speech and environmental sounds.
For people with hearing loss, hearing on the telephone is often a struggle; whether conversing with friends or family, arranging a job interview, contacting a company’s customer service department, or scheduling a medical appointment.