A hearing impairment is a
hearing loss that prevents a person from totally receiving sounds through
the ear. If the loss is mild, the person has difficulty hearing faint or
distant speech. A person with this degree of hearing impairment may use a
hearing aid to amplify sounds. If the hearing loss is severe, the person
may not be able to distinguish any sounds. There are four types of hearing
caused by diseases or obstructions in the outer or
middle ear that usually affect all frequencies of hearing. A hearing aid
generally helps a person with a conductive hearing loss.
results from damage to the inner ear. This loss can
range from mild to profound and often affects certain frequencies more
than others. Sounds are often distorted, even with a hearing aid.
occurs in both the inner and outer or middle ear.
results from damage to the central nervous system.
People with hearing impairment
can communicate using numerous methods of communication, such as:
- American Sign
Language (ASL): This is the primary language of people who are deaf. It consists
of a combination of hand movements and positions to express thoughts and
spelling: This is a manual form of communication in which the hand and
fingers spell out letters of the alphabet to form words.
This is a difficult skill used only by about 10% of
people with hearing impairments. Therefore, don't assume that a deaf
person to whom you are speaking can lip read. Even if a person cannot
lip read, however, being allowed to see the speaker's mouth provides
helpful visual cues.
communication ("Pad and Pencil"): This is a fairly simple way to
communicate with a person who is deaf. Remember, however, that sign
language is the primary language for most persons who are deaf; English
is a second language, so keep your words simple.
(From: "Those of Us
DisLabeled: A Guide
to Awareness and Understanding", University of Kentucky Human Development
Institute, Cooperative Extension Service)
- Smile and maintain eye contact during the
time you are talking to a person who is hearing impaired. The person
always needs to be able to see your lips if he has learned to read lips.
If a sign language interpreter is present, talk directly to the person
who is deaf, not the interpreter.
- If at all feasible, use complete
sentences, especially when communicating with children. Good language
development is dependent upon correct use of verbs, adjectives, adverbs,
nouns, etc. Restricting communication to a single word or short phrase
deprives this population of opportunities to master the English
language, thus limiting their academic development.
- Speak slowly and clearly, but do not
exaggerate. Be expressive, but not overly so.
- If a word is not understood, try another
word. Demonstrate if possible.
- Use sign language only if you're
qualified. Otherwise, incorrect information may be conveyed.
- Do not shout. Hearing aids make sounds
louder, but they do not clarify the person's reception or understanding
of the sound. The presence of a hearing aid does not mean that the
person can hear normally.
- If all else fails, use a pad and pencil
to communicate. Since this often isolates the person with a hearing
impairment from the group, try to use writing only if oral speech, lip
reading, sign language, gestures, and finger spelling have
- During group gatherings, seat the person
with a hearing impairment so s/he can see others in the group. Try a
semi-circle arrangement. If possible, arrange to have an interpreter or
note-taker. Use visual aids whenever possible.
- Watch the person who is deaf or hearing
impaired carefully for facial expressions and body language that will
help you determine the success of your communication.
- If you have trouble understanding the
speech of a person who is deaf, don't hesitate to ask him to repeat what
he said. Your willingness and desire to communicate is what is most
important, not the ease with which you understand.
For more information:
National Information Center on
800 Florida Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20002-3695
(telephone 202-651-5051 voice,
National Association of
814 Thayer Avenue
Silver Spring, MD
(telephone 301-587-1788 voice, 301-587-1789
Gail Kovalic & Frank
Kruppenbacher's "Libraries and the ADA: Providing Accessible Media to Deaf
and Hard-of-Hearing People" link