The Importance of Increasing Deaf Awareness

It’s an astonishing fact and almost certainly one that few people are likely to be familiar with, but deafness is now the third most common form of disability in the world. This may serve to explain, at least in part, why there is a need to create greater deaf awareness among today’s society. Despite this surprising statistic, those affected in this way are not easily spotted among the crowds of people who are blessed with healthy hearing.

As we go about our daily affairs, it is all too easy to overlook those with a hearing impairment and to simply dismiss them as not particularly communicative or perhaps even as impolite. However, while some may be a little embarrassed by their condition and reluctant to draw attention, others have a need to communicate. In order to respond to this need appropriately and to make the interaction both an effective and a pleasant experience, most hearing individuals will require a few tips and also to rethink some of their unfounded beliefs.

For example, an important part of deaf awareness is to accept that not all deaf people are able to read lips and, that even for those who are, it is a skill that requires years of practice to perfect. Furthermore, since many sounds are not accompanied by visible lip movements, lip reading is far from being an exact method of communication. However, if you should encounter someone with this ability, be sure you have his or her attention before starting to speak and preferably in a well-lit location; face the subject and speak clearly without shouting and using your normal facial expressions and lip movements. If the subject is a friend, family member or a colleague with whom you need to communicate regularly, it might pay to learn fingerspelling or even some of the basics of sign language.

While facilitating communication at a personal level is a useful way to show more deaf awareness, the needs of the hard-of-hearing extend into all aspects of living. What, for instance, may be required in order to ensure that such individuals can perform a productive role when attending a management meeting or so that a deaf child can learn alongside those with no hearing difficulties? When shopping in a department store, there will often be important announcements made over a public address system, but has any provision been made to ensure that such announcements are also audible to those who wear a hearing aid and may find it difficult to discern these from background noises?

Fitting an induction loop is an inexpensive and effective option with which to eliminate each one of these potential problems and where such facilities are absent, it is a matter of obligation to draw the attention of the appropriate employers, teaching staff or retailers to the value of displaying greater deaf awareness.

For those who accept the value of gaining a better understanding of the needs of the hearing impaired and may require more information, there is now a plethora of audio-visual material, brochures and courses available at no cost, much of it via the internet. Every citizen has the right to realise his or her potential, and society needs them to do so. Talk to an Ear Institute professional about deaf awareness.

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