As per WHO's 2005 report, 63 million persons (6.3 percent of the population) have a significant hearing impairment. That means roughly one person out of a dozen has a significant hearing loss.
Some concepts need to be understood before we can proceed -
1. Difference between speech and language - speech is the spoken word, whereas language is an overall communication which includes reception and expression. Speech requires proper motor skills of articulation, vocal cord function etc whereas language is more related to comprehension and making sense of it all.
2. Communication - Effective social interaction is communication. For instance a person who is hearing impaired and has no speech can still communicate. She can articulate simple demands like I need water by gesturing towards a glass of water. A person can communicate her sorrow, anger, frustration etc without having to resort to speech.
Hearing impairment does not necessarily mean that the person is totally deaf - there is usually some hearing available.
While speaking with a hearing Impaired person, kindly keep the following in mind :
1. Speak up a little- Do not whisper or speak softly and do not shout - speak just a little above your normal volume
2. Speak clearly - do not mumble - articulate your sounds well
3. Reduce background noise - speak in as quiet a room as possible because background noise distorts your sound signal to the patient.
4. Keep your lips and face clearly in front of the hearing impaired person- hearing impaired persons are very good lip readers and can judge what you are saying by reading your lips
5. Use gestures liberally so as to illustrate what you are saying - this helps them to get the context of what you are saying.
6. Learn Sign Language - if you are the primary care giver of a hearing aid person and the person is completely deaf, sign language will help the both of you communicate effectively with each other. Remember that it takes a while to master sign language.
If you think it is frustrating for you to communicate with a hearing impaired person, imagine the frustration the person suffers from her inability to hear and communicate effectively. Kindly be patient, polite, and do not get frustrated if your message is not going through- try again.
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