LAPP is dedicated to promoting unity, with the belief that everyone makes up a piece of the pie. Sadly, this feeling of unity is not a reality for many individuals with hearing impairments and it is a direct result of the way society treats them. Individuals with hearing loss are forgotten, not discussed and often embarrassed by the reactions of those who do not understand their disability.
1/6 of us in the UK live with hearing loss and the number of young adults suffering from hearing loss is increasing, but the awareness of the issue remains stagnant. Despite the myriad of opportunities we have to research and educate ourselves about hearing loss – we just don’t do it, and we need to start now.
Allow me to educate you on this forgotten disability but firstly, let me clear up some myths:
“Hearing loss only affects you when you’re old.”
This is false! According to hear.it.org more and more young people are experiencing hearing problems, with 1 in 4 18-44-year olds experiencing hearing loss. Young people with hearing loss have reported feeling ‘ostracised’ and ‘initially struggling with self-esteem’ (NDS 2015). These are issues that we as a society can prevent but at the moment we don’t because too many of us lack the knowledge on how to deal with it. So yes, hearing loss does occur as a result of old age but it isn’t the only factor, other lifestyle factors such as obesity and how loud you turn up your favourite tune can play a part in hearing loss.
“People with hearing loss are dumb.”
Hearing and intelligence have a tenuous link and the amount of influential people with hearing loss such as Bill Clinton and Beethoven directly contradicts this statement.
“I would know if I had hearing loss.”
Everyone likes to feel as though they are ‘in-touch’ with their body, therefore, when we discuss disabilities that involve a loss, such as hearing loss the response is often ‘I would know if I had it’. To be frank, initially you wouldn’t. This is because hearing loss occurs slowly over many years and it’s likely that people experiencing a reduction in their hearing grow accustomed to it, until it is pointed out to them by those around them or reached a significant loss.
So, what do I mean when I say “hearing loss”?
Essentially, it is those with a mild hearing loss all the way to the profoundly deaf. The spectrum of loss is almost as varied as the autistic spectrum in the sense that no loss is the same for each individual. Knowing the severity of somebody’s loss isn’t something you can tell by looking at a person however, there are often cues that we can usually disregard when speaking to people.
Here are the top four cues and how you can help someone if they are showing these signs:
|Sign||How can you be sure they are doing this?||How can you help them?|
|Reading your lips||You may genuinely have a nice set of smackers but if someone is reading your lips for the whole conversation there’s a chance that they are struggling to hear you.||Make sure your lip movements are clear and you aren’t speaking with something covering your mouth.|
|Leaning in||Unless you’re on a date, in a club or leaning in yourself this is another sign of someone who is struggling to hear.||If you are quite a low speaker raise the level of your voice (not to a shouting level) and make sure you are facing them.
Avoid speaking too fast.
|They seem to not understand you, they have a confused look on their face.||This can often confuse the speaker as it’s unclear sometimes whether it is in response to what they have said or not. If your conversation is very simple then perhaps they are struggling to hear you.||Sometimes asking if someone understands you or whether they would like you to repeat what you’ve said is the best option. Just make sure the second time is clearer and not fast paced.|
|‘Could you repeat that’||Often people lip reading miss out on some words so they may ask if you could repeat what you have said.||Repeat what you have said again changing any words to words that are easier to hear so your message is clearer.|
One of the most important things that people forget is respect. Sometimes speaking to someone really slowly and constantly asking them whether they understand can come across as condescending. We don’t need to shout if someone cannot hear us because it actually distorts words, making them less clear.
As a society it is crucial that we interact and identify with one another, this includes people with hearing impairments. The bottom line is, people with hearing impairments are still people. They need to socialise and we must do a better job giving them a helping hand. So, the next time you’re speaking to someone who seems hard of hearing, give them the chance to hear you properly. Inclusivity will eventually lead to those with hearing impairments feeling how they should feel – like a piece of the pie.
Written by Sekina Odumosu