Even in this day and age, living can be exhausting for people with disabilities, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not the disabilities that make everyday life challenging. Instead, it’s the systems in place and the misconceptions that follow them. Many people still have a long way to go before they understand life as a person with a disability.
There are plenty of ways to better interact and engage with those people, particularly those who are deaf and hard of hearing. The best place you can start is by getting rid of long-held beliefs and misconceptions about being deaf or hard-of-hearing.
One of the reasons it’s so misunderstood is because it’s considered an invisible condition. There’s no way to tell if a person is deaf or hard of hearing. But, more often than not, even the most well-meaning people end up doing more harm than good, whether it’s by inadvertently insulting someone or by overstepping.
Here are some common misconceptions about the deaf and hard of hearing:
Misconception #1: Everyone Uses Sign Language or Reads Lips
A common mistake people make about the deaf and hard of hearing is to lump all of them into a giant umbrella. Most people assume everything they know about a deaf or hard-of-hearing person can be applied to everyone. Hearing loss spans a broad spectrum from mild to completely deaf.
Not every person with hearing loss communicates the same way. There are a variety of factors that affect communication. The degree of hearing loss is something to consider. Do they have a hearing aid or a cochlear implant? At what age did they lose hearing? Were they born with it? All of these and more can impact how they communicate.
It can be very useful to know and understand sign language. However, it is incorrect to assume or expect everyone to communicate the same way. The same goes for lip reading. Don’t put all the burden of understanding on just one person.
Misconception #2: Talking Louder Helps People with Hearing Loss to Understand
This is probably the most common mistake, and tactic people fall on when communicating with a deaf or hard of hearing person. There may be some cases where this is necessary and maybe even helpful, but those are rare. And if the situation does happen to call for it, you’ll know. Don’t start yelling right away.
Remember that the volume of your voice hits a point where the louder it gets, the more distorted it sounds, thus defeating the purpose. Focus on clarity rather than volume and over-articulation. Doing those things might make it harder for them to understand what you want to say.
Misconception #3: Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants Restore Hearing to Normal
As mentioned above, hearing loss spans a broad spectrum. The way that people with hearing loss hear things is different from how you hear them. This is true even if they have hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants aren’t solutions to hearing loss like glasses are for people with poor eyesight. Simply put, hearing aids increase volume and clarity, but only slightly. Cochlear implants can provide near-normal hearing or just a general awareness of the sound around them.
Hearing loss can be difficult for people with it, but it’s not impossible to live with. What makes it challenging is how people treat and interact with them. All too often, these misconceptions and more lead people to treat people with hearing loss like children or worse. It’s essential to understand the truth behind harmful misconceptions.
Fraser Valley Beltone is a hearing clinic located in Langley, Fort Langley, and Abbotsford. We provide hearing care that is unmatched in quality, excellence, and care. Our ultimate goal is to help all our patients get what they need to enjoy life. Contact us today to learn more.