People who are hearing impaired face considerable challenges. They experience and navigate the world much differently than those with perfect hearing. To gain an understanding of the difficulties they may face, here are ten situations you may have never thought of that make life more challenging when little to nothing is audible.
1. Public announcements
Remember the last time you were at the airport and over a loudspeaker you were told boarding was in progress—or that the flight was delayed? Public address systems notify us of what’s going on all the time, but a hearing impaired individual probably won’t get the message.
2. Slow talkers
When someone realizes they’re interacting with a hearing impaired person, they often switch to a slower form of speech. While it’s done with the best intentions, it can actually hinder lip reading. Over time, the hearing impaired have learned to understand words when people speak naturally, so slowing it down intentionally can result in miscommunication.
3. Being in the dark
Whether it’s a dimly-lit room or a noisy dark club, the absence of light makes it difficult for the hearing impaired to engage with others. They generally rely on visual stimuli, such as lip reading or sign language, so darkness poses a challenge.
4. Being “jumpy”
Have you ever been startled by someone approaching you from behind? It happens to the hearing impaired all the time. Without visual cues or vibrations on the floor, they can be easily startled. For some, this leads to a constant "jumpy" feeling, as they can rarely be completely comfortable no one is sneaking up on them from behind.
5. Relying on touch
When most of us want someone’s attention, we can simply call out their name. When a person is hearing impaired, however, they won’t hear their name called. That’s why in deaf culture, firm but polite tapping on the shoulder is normal in order to gain attention. However, those not familiar with the deaf community may be unaware of this, leading to confrontation.
6. Sign language misunderstandings
Sign language is far from universal, and different standards exist in different countries (for example, the differences between American and British Sign Language are quite significant). In addition, regional areas have their own specific variations—just like accents or slang—leading to further difficulty. There are many instances of professional interpreters using the wrong words due to the variations across regions and country; while this may not seem like a big deal, it has led to lasting harm, such as in legal situations or miscommunication during hospital visits.
7. Job applications and interviews
Job interviews are already stressful situations; now consider being hearing impaired. Those who are hard of hearing or deaf may sometimes feel completely ignored when they reveal their hearing status on application forms, possibly because recruiters see it as too much extra work to accommodate them. When they do reach the interview stage, more complications arise. Telephone interviews are nearly impossible without an interpreter, and in-person interviews can be difficult to carry out if an interviewer is unprepared for the situation.
8. Going to a movie
Seeing the newest films at a theater is no easy feat. Often, theater chains are unreliable with setting up films with subtitles; if they do have subtitled films available, they're often only on films that have been out for months or shown at unusual times, such as 10am on a Wednesday.
9. Caring for hearing aids
While hearing aids have helped millions to better hear sounds and communicate more effectively with others, they also have to be well maintained to keep the equipment working optimally. The hearing impaired often have to keep spare batteries when traveling or commuting, and because the devices can’t get wet, even a mid-afternoon rainstorm can pose a problem.
10. Depression and anxiety
Studies reveal that deaf people are around twice as likely to suffer from psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. Research suggests this stems from feelings of isolation. Making matters worse, the most effective treatment for these types of issues is usually talking with a therapist. Of course, finding a doctor or therapist with the means necessary to effectively work with those who have hearing challenges is no easy feat.
While the hearing impaired and the deaf have learned to adjust to many situations, there will always be challenges. Thankfully, technology is helping change lives (for example, many public announcements are now also sent to cell phones). While many deaf people don't want hearing and consider deafness their own unique culture, the larger hearing world still views them with pity. The fact is, most deaf people or hearing impaired individuals don’t want pity, but just want to be treated with respect. As individuals with hearing, that is the most important thing we can provide.