Hearing impairment refers to the functional loss of hearing that ranges from mild to profound impairment. People who have no functional hearing are referred to as deaf.
Deafness is an impairment in hearing. It can either be a permanent loss of ability to hear or it can fluctuate such that it adversely affects a child’s academic ability and performance.
Different degrees of hearing loss
- Mild Hearing Loss: A person with a mild hearing loss may have difficulty in hearing soft or distant speech. They may also have difficulty hearing normal conversation in situations where there is a lot of background noise. In some cases, the person may not understand certain speech sounds that are high pitched therefore usually results in challenges of mispronunciation and omission of sounds.
- Moderate Hearing Loss: A person with this type of hearing loss understands conversation only if it is very loud and if the environment or setting is quiet. This means that the person can only hear the sounds that are very close and most likely, misses a considerate amount of speech going on around him or her. The speech ability of such a person may be remarkably different from that of a person with normal. This is because several consonants are limited or missing in their speeches. On top of that, their grammar and vocabulary may be grossly affected.
- Severe Hearing Loss: People living with such hearing loss may be unable to follow normal conversation however quiet the environment or surroundings is. They are also unable to develop language and speech in a natural way. They also have difficulty in understanding complex sentences. Such people also have limited expressive skills. This means that they have limited vocabulary and trouble explaining their ideas to other people.
- Profound Hearing Loss: Persons with profound hearing loss have a limited vocabulary, have challenges pronouncing speech sounds and may misinterpret that which is spoken to them. Their communication relies very heavily on visual skills. They may also not be aware of environmental sounds around them and cannot communicate through spoken language.
Possible Solutions to Communication Barrier with Persons Living With Hearing Impairment
There are possible solutions to communication barriers when having a conversation with people with hearing impairment. Some of the solutions include:
Maintaining Eye Contact
One should always maintain eye contact while talking to a person with hearing impairment especially those with severe or profound hearing loss. This is because persons with hearing impairment cannot benefit from oral speech even if the sound is made loud. This is one of the reasons for the use of gestures by persons living with hearing impairment. When talking to persons living with hearing impairment, it is advisable to always face them so that you do not miss any information they may try to pass through sign language. Additionally, avoid any unnecessary movement for this might distort or change the meaning of what you are trying to sign.
Check on Background Noise
Anytime you are conversing with a person living with hearing impairment you should always check on background noise. Persons with mild hearing loss can follow normal conversation only if there is no noise in the background. It is thus important to always turn off any loud music around, for instance, or move away from a noisy background.
Put on a Name Tag
At your workplaces, always put on a nametag that states your particulars, including your job description. This will ensure easy identification whenever any person with hearing impairment visit you at your office or area of duty.
Use of Written Communication
In a case where you are not well conversant with Kenyan Sign Language and a person has profound hearing loss, always choose to write down the information you want to pass. For example, at the hospital, the medical practitioner should always offer to send a text message when the prescription is ready or write a prescription label as clear and simple as possible.
Keep Your Hands Away From Your Face While Talking
Always keep your hands from your face while talking because some of the persons with hearing impairment always get information through lip-reading and when you cover your face, they cannot ascertain lip reading.
When you cover your face, a person with hearing impairment may not be able to study your facial expression. The facial expression serves a very important role in communicating with persons with hearing impairment.
Taking turns while talking to persons with hearing impairment is important because it enables each one of you to absorb and understand what information each is trying to pass. Always wait for the person with the hearing impairment to complete passing the information, before giving feedback to avoid misinterpretation of information. This also helps in better understanding one another.
In addition, one should avoid using complex or sentences. Always using simple and short sentences and while talking, pauses, and use direct words or simple vocabularies.
It is my hope that this piece will help in understanding persons with hearing impairment, specifically in an attempt to ease communication.