Hearing loss is more prevalent than you might expect. The latest research indicates that one in six people in Australia have some form of hearing loss.
There are lots of misunderstandings out there about how being deaf affects people, as well as a lack of awareness as to the varying degrees of hearing disability, plus ways of communicating.
What does it mean to be ‘profoundly deaf’?
Hearing loss can range from mild to moderate to profound. The web’s largest hearing and hearing loss website, Hear-it, provides the following definitions:
Mild: People who suffer from mild hearing loss might have some difficulties keeping up with conversations, especially in noisy environments. The quietest sounds that can be heard are between 25 – 40 decibels (dB).
Moderate: Difficulties keeping up with conversations without a hearing aid. The quietest sounds that can be heard are between 40 – 70 dB.
Severe: People who have severe hearing loss need powerful hearing aids and often lip-reading skills as well. The quietest sounds they can hear are between 70 and 95 dB.
It’s important to remember that hearing aids make sounds louder but they do not restore normal hearing.
Profound: Profound hearing loss means the quietest sounds that can be heard are 95 dB. People who are profoundly deaf rely mainly on lip-reading and/or sign language.
It’s not as simple as ‘read my lips’
The hearing community often greatly underestimates the real effort that someone who is severely or profoundly deaf puts into understanding.
Lip-reading is difficult and requires continual concentration. It can be extremely tiring for long periods of time. Plus, many people speak very quickly, muffle their mouths or turn away during a conversation.
In addition, studies have shown that only around 40% of the English language can be understood by lip-reading.
When communicating with someone who has significant hearing loss, help them by speaking clearly and looking straight at them.
There’s more than one sign language!
A lot of people think there’s just one universal sign language. No. There are over 200 different sign languages around the world. These developed organically in communities, in the same way that spoken languages did.
Australian Sign Language (Auslan) has differences to American Sign Language (ASL), Japanese Sign Language (JSL) and so forth. This can be a challenge when people with hearing loss travel!
Around 20,000 people in Australia use Auslan to communicate every day. Yet, this fundamental visual form of communication remains a mystery to most Australians.
If you’re interested in learning Auslan, contact the local deaf advocacy service in your state, such as The Deaf Society in NSW.
Assistive technologies can help immensely
With continual advances in technology, Assistive Technology (AT) is getting better all the time. For people who are severely or profoundly deaf, hearing aids and cochlear implants are essential AT.
However, whatever your level of hearing loss, there are devices to help. It might be a smoke alarm with bright strobe lights instead of a noisy alarm, amplified telecommunication devices or a video phone for signing or lip-reading.
The importance of social inclusion
There are many deaf-related social groups in the community, across a range of interests, which facilitate interaction for people with hearing loss.
However, it’s important for those in the hearing community to include people with hearing loss and not make assumptions about their level of capability.
NDIS Supports for deaf people
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides funding for people living with hearing loss which severely impacts their everyday lives.
Dead, deafblind, hard of hearing people and parents of deaf children can all apply for support through the NDIS.
Zest Personalised Care is a registered NDIS provider. If you’d like more information about how we can assist you, please get in touch.