Archived Newsletters

First steps to understanding the needs of a deaf person

First steps to understanding the needs of a deaf person - Before anyone with normal hearing can start to support a deaf person, they need to understand precisely what problems the deaf person is having

The trouble is, though, that our everyday language is woefully inadequate for the purpose. For example, people tend just to think that a deaf person doesn't 'hear' what is going on on the assumption that the remedy is merely to find a way of making it louder.

However, 'hear' is not really a particularly helpful word anyway because it is so ambiguous. A sound may not loud enough for a deaf person, but other questions need to be asked, particularly for 'hearing' speech. Can the deaf person, for example, register (hear) that someone is speaking, but not be able to distinguish the words clearly enough to follow what is being said? If so - as is commonly the case - is there more of a problem with some voices than with others, like with the high pitched ones of children? Is there more of a problem in a noisy environment where voices seem to merge into the background noise? Are some sounds, which appear to be acceptably loud to people with normal hearing, too painful to endure. The list of questions could grow longer. So whether or not a deaf person can 'hear' a sound is nowhere near as helpful as whether they can listen to it comfortably, 'understand' it or 'interpret' it.

So it is important to understand something about hearing problems in order to be able to express and understand the needs of a deaf person - see the links in the box above right.

Other problems with the ears such as 'tinnitus' and 'vertigo' are not considered here because they have blessedly never affected me severely and so I have not had to try to understand them at all deeply or to develop coping strategies for them

Back Back to top