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Misconceptions and Stereotypes About the Hard of Hearing Individuals and How to Overcome Them

As I have been living with hearing loss since birth, without I doubt, it has it's challenging days and moments, especially when we live in a world that is not built with accessibility in mind. (though that is gradually changing). It can be especially difficult when a lot of individuals do not understand experiences lived and challenges encountered by those who have hearing loss. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes about individuals who are hard of hearing. This can make communication and interaction more difficult. I would like to explore some of the most common misconceptions and stereotypes and provide tips on how to overcome them. Get your notebook people!

Misconception: The hard of hearing can't hear anything.

Reality: While there are individuals with hearing loss that are completely deaf, there are quite a number of individuals who can still hear some sounds. Hearing loss is similar to a spectrum ranging from mild to profound. (Mine is severe to profound hearing loss) It is important to understand that hearing loss can vary widely and affects individuals differently. I have met quite a number of individuals with hearing loss, we have similar frustrations and experiences, but we also have very different experiences and needs, depending on the nature of our hearing loss. It can be considered similar to the way there are individuals with different glasses prescriptions. Some people can drive without their glasses, others probably cannot.

Tip: I would recommend that you do not assume that individuals who are hard of hearing can't hear anything. Instead, ask them how they prefer to communicate and what works best for them. For example, they may benefit from using assistive listening devices or lip-reading.

Misconception: Speaking louder means we can hear you.

Reality: Whilst sometimes this is the case, this more often than not, in my personal experience not very helpful. What is helpful is for people to be clearer with their diction. I understand that sometimes accents heavily influence the way people speak it is usually more helpful to speak a LITTLE slower and clearer, rather than at a louder volume.

Tip: Again similar to the tip provided above, it would be helpful to ask if the hard of hearing individual wants you to be louder or clearer (they really are two different things)

Misconception: Hearing aids can restore hearing to normal.

Reality: I often chuckle when I hear this misconception but I can totally see why it exists. Hearing aids can improve hearing, but they can't completely restore it to normal. They amplify sounds to make them louder and clearer, but they can't completely eliminate background noise or restore missing frequencies. In my experience, when everytime I upgraded my hearing aids (and in turn have access to new technology), my brain learnt new sounds that existed. It wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I really heard a bird song for the first time.

Tip: Be patient and understanding when communicating with someone who wears hearing aids. Speak clearly and face them directly to help them understand you better.

Misconception: Hearing loss only affects the elderly.

Reality: While hearing loss is more common among older adults, it can affect people of all ages, including children and young adults. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics, exposure to loud noise, and certain medical conditions. It is also helpful to note that in this day and age where individuals are constantly exposed to more high volumes than usual (think earphones, concerts, living in a very noisy area with cars and trucks driving by often etc.)

Tip: Don't assume that someone is too young to have hearing loss. If you're having difficulty communicating with someone, consider whether hearing loss may be a factor and adjust your communication style accordingly.

Misconception: The hard of hearing are less intelligent or capable.

Reality: Hearing loss has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence or capability. People with hearing loss can excel in all areas of life, including work, education, and relationships. I have come across some incredibly remarkable people who also happen to have hearing loss. Some people you may be familiar with that have hearing loss are Halle Berry, Ashton Kutcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Millie Bobbie Brown (Stranger Things, Enola Holmes) and my personal favorite Beethoven (I often wonder how he composed beautiful music whilst being deaf)

Tip: Treat the hard of hearing with the same respect and consideration as you would anyone else. Making assumptions about their abilities based on hearing loss, isn't entirely a great idea, I would not recommend it.

Misconception: Sign language is the only way to communicate with the hard of hearing.

Reality: Whilst sign language is an incredibly valuable tool for communication, but it's not the only way to communicate with the hard of hearing. Many people with hearing loss (myself included) prefer to communicate verbally or through written messages, depending on their preferences and level of hearing loss. I have had a number of well intended people ask me if I could sign. I don't and as a matter of personal preference, it's something I would rather not learn. This has been a hot button topic in the deaf and hard of hearing community I would explore another time.

Tip: Again, I would recommend asking the hard of hearing individual how they prefer to communicate and respect their choices. If you're not sure how to communicate with someone, don't be shy, and ask them to show you or provide guidance. They would usually be more than happy to show you.

Hopefully some of the above information helps you make informed choices on how to make communication and interaction easier with people who have had hearing loss. By understanding and overcoming these misconceptions, being patient and empathetic, we create a more inclusive and supportive environment for people with hearing loss. Being patient, respectful and considerate goes a long way in making those interactions a pleasant one. Let me know if there's any other conceptions or questions you may have about individuals with hearing loss in the comment section and I would be happy to answer them.

Have a great week!

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2 comentários

Folaranmi osifuwa
Folaranmi osifuwa
01 de mai. de 2023

Thanks for sharing bukola I actually learnt a lot.


Ore Egerton-Shyngle
Ore Egerton-Shyngle
01 de mai. de 2023

Thanks so much for sharing. Super insightful as always

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