Hearing impairment isn’t at all uncommon. Chances are you’ve encountered at least one hard-on-hearing person in your life. According to World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 466 million people in the world have hearing problems, and that number will nearly double by 2050.
Every country has a Deaf community. If you’re connected to one, you would have an idea of their daily struggles. Though they have a healthy social life, it doesn’t mean they don’t find communicating hard. When they need to talk to a hearing person, they’d have trouble getting their message across unless they write it down, or enlist the help of an interpreter.
The stigma and challenges faced by the Deaf could be attributed to the charity model of disability. Because we see deafness as a disability, we group the Deaf apart from the hearing and assume that they are impaired or disabled. And the medical model of audiology defines disability as an illness, so the industry is focused on correcting that disability.
True, the Deaf require medical services to aid them in communicating and to improve the quality of their lives in turn. But if we continue to regard them as disabled or impaired, we won’t help them land more stable jobs and find better economic opportunities. We’re no stranger to the fact that the disabled are disadvantaged when it comes to their careers.
That said, here are the persistent challenges faced by the deaf community, and the different ways to help them:
Hurdles Still Faced by the Deaf
Lack of Deaf Awareness
Despite information being available in the palm of our hands, many of us still lack deaf-awareness. Knowing that the deaf “cannot hear” doesn’t make us deaf-aware. Understanding — not simply knowing — deafness is what makes us deaf-aware.
We can increase our deaf-awareness by educating ourselves about the varying degrees of deafness. Some hearing-impaired people might not hear anything, but some might still catch conversations and respond well. Not all hearing-impaired people also wear hearing aids. Some use cochlear implants instead.
The term “deaf” may also mean differently depending on how you use it. Capitalizing the “D” means you’re referring to the deaf as an identity. Spelling the “d” in lowercase means you’re referring to it as a degree of hearing loss.
When communicating with the Deaf, raising your voice or exaggerating your speech isn’t necessary. Learning to sign language will let you communicate better. Using hand gesture and visual cues are helpful as well. And when all else fails, you can always write down your message instead.
The Deaf won’t be offended if you communicate with them through texts. They will prefer it over your yelling, without a doubt. So, start removing the barriers between you by communicating with them properly.
Lack of Economic and Financial Opportunities
Some insurance companies, lenders, and employers reject the Deaf simply because they’re deaf. The impact of those rejections, of course, will have a ripple effect. Without a job, they cannot obtain health insurance, as well as income. And without an income, they cannot borrow money.
The final outcome won’t just be poverty. They’ll also experience health issues. And because poverty hinders them from acquiring basic resources, it will eventually impact their social life as well. Without the means to buy hearing aids or to learn sign language, they’ll always struggle to communicate.
Ways to Help the Deaf Community
Take Audiology Outside of the Booth
In an article on Canadian Audiologist, audiologists are advised to extend their services outside of their booths. If you specialize in this field of medicine, don’t stop at selling your audiology practice. Revisit your practice and refocus your activities on your patients’ lifestyle needs. Find out the challenges they face at school or at work. If you have to go out of your way to observe them in a specific place, do it. In other words, don’t just be their doctor, but also an advocate for their welfare.
Consider the Deaf in Developing Countries
The deaf in developing countries needs help too. Look at countries like the Philippines, Kenya, Bangladesh, and Tanzania. Nongovernmental organizations provide support for their Deaf communities. Quota International, for one, has worked for the Philippines, providing free education for deaf Filipino children. They’ve also trained deaf women in Legazpi on sewing.
Sound Seekers is a reputable organization as well. One of their most notable accomplishments is providing audiological services to the Deaf in hard-to-reach places. You can also explore the programs of the U.S. Federal Government Assistance. They’ve been supporting the training of deaf education teachers in Kenya. In addition, they’ve taught sewing to deaf Iraqi women.
Removing the barriers between the Deaf and the hearing starts in friendship and camaraderie between the two groups. Don’t be part of the problem; open yourself to anyone hard on hearing.
The deaf don’t see themselves as impaired or disabled at all. Like us, they also see themselves as a completely normal and healthy person.