Holidays can be lonely
Holidays are full of hustle and bustle, tradition, travel , noise and family .For most of us, it has a bit of stress added in. For children and adults with hearing loss, there can also be extra stress and loneliness.
At first thought, you might find this odd..this is the BEST time of the year, right? Well, try to imagine yourself from their point of view. If a child or adult only signs and the family and friends with whom they get together with during the holidays do not sign, this makes communicating very hard. Perhaps some people have taken time or interest and know some basic greetings..but after that, people often talk quickly and move on. If a child or adult uses listening and spoken language, it is not necessarily much easier. People speak fast, there is background noise, people are moving all over while talking, which distorts their voice and makes it very hard for someone to speech read. Often, children and adults with hearing loss became extremely lonely and feel left out.
There is hope. Plan ahead. If you are inviting people with hearing loss to your home, have paper and pencil or technology available to make communication flow easier. If you are a parent or spouse of someone with hearing loss going to someone's home, bring some communication options along. Set up seating in a semi circle, so people can all see each other. Remind people to get the person with hearing loss' attention first, before speaking or signing.
This may not make the communication perfect, but it will allow that person to feel intentionally included. This helps that person want to advocate more and some of the loneliness can disappear.
Another great idea is to buy some movies or books for the child with hearing loss that have characters in them who have hearing loss, so they can relate. It is also a great idea to get them for the families who don't have hearing loss, so they can start to learn about hearing loss.
Deaf vs deaf
People in 2018 are very aware of labels, names, categories, etc. It is not politically correct to call people "disabled",but some people prefer to be called 'disabled.' Others prefer to be called "differently abled." I have learned long ago, that it is not my place to decide what to "label" or "call " people. I do my best and hope people will politely share with me how they would like to be addressed.
When it comes to hearing loss, there are many ways people want to be addressed. Some people say, "Deaf". Some people say, "deaf". Some people say, " hearing impaired," while others feel offended by that term. Some people say, " hard of hearing " even if they have no hearing and use a cochlear implant.
When I work with my students, I try to explain the medical terms vs the cultural terms. It is not my place to decide for them how they refer to themselves,but I do try to educate.
If a person is 'deaf', that literally means that on an audiogram, when their hearing is tested, they have a significant hearing loss. That means they can not hear without amplification. For some, it means that even with hearing aids, there is no understandable hearing. This person may use a cochlear implant and be able to understand spoken language after much therapy. For someone to be labeled "hard of hearing", it usually means a person has hearing loss,but in the mid ranges. This person does get benefit from a hearing aid and is able to understand spoken language.
When a person identifies himself as " Deaf", it is related to culture. It means he feels he belongs to the Deaf culture-knows/uses American Sign Language, does not feel like he has "lost" anything because he can 't hear some or all spoken language. He may have a significant hearing loss or a mild one,but it is how he culturally feels. A person who calls herself "hearing impaired " usually is someone who fits in more with the hearing world and sees the hearing loss as a deficit medically, not a culture.
There is no right or wrong way a person should label herself. People 's perspectives and understanding of their hearing losses may change over their lives, due to changing hearing loss or due to the people they meet. It saddens me when one group tells the other group that they are wrong. My hope is that people in both the 'deaf' and the "Deaf" community can come together and be open for all people to flow in and out of each group.
Hearing Aids-to buy or not to buy?
There are so many confusing questions around buying hearing aids. Let's start, however, at the beginning. How do you know if your hearing loss even warrants a hearing aid? You go to the expert,right?
Sure, adults and kids alike go to to the audiologist who tests their hearing. They depend on this audiologist to explain the hearing test results , called an audiogram, and explain whether or not they have a hearing loss. General public also relies on the audiologist to recommend if they need a hearing aid or not.
Here is where the trouble begins. I have had students with moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears be told by their audiologist that they do NOT need hearing aids. I have seen adults who have a mild high frequency loss be told that they do need hearing aids... How do you know what is right?
In general, I would suggest you listen to the audiologist. You can even consider getting a second opinion. Ask why the audiologist thinks you do or do not need them. This is the important part. For children, language learning and concept mapping takes place during the early years of life. If you are wanting your children to become listeners and speakers, then it is important to get them aided early. In quiet, in a booth, children might be able to understand sounds and even words. It is more important to have your child tested in noise. This is when hearing and understanding breaks down. Many audiologist are not educational audiologist or pediatric audiologists. I encourage you to take your children to someone who has a good understanding of not just hearing loss, but also how hearing loss affects learning in a noisy classroom.
As for adults, again, if you can hear well in a quiet booth, have your audiologist test you in noise. Can you understand? Think about your job, your hobbies, your life..what do you do? If you are often lecturing in a quiet setting or working alone or even 1:1, you might not need hearing aids. However, if you enjoy dining out, attend conferences with many people, are a part of a large corporation where numerous staff sits at a table and "takes turns"(ie, interrupts each other) talking, you might need hearing aids.
Hearing aids are a big decision. Take time to think it over, ask for second opinions, and read up. Let me know what you decided.
Allison Schley is a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing children. She took her passion for kids with hearing loss and became an author. She wants all children with hearing loss to know they are amazing and that hearing loss will not keep them from following their dreams.