Sun | Oct 24, 2021

Deaf awareness and COVID-19

Published:Wednesday | September 22, 2021 | 12:10 AM

DEAF AWARENESS takes centre stage this month as the community celebrates the rich cultural history of the Deaf community, and continues the work of advocating for the rights of deaf people everywhere.

Activities and events throughout Deaf Awareness month encourage individuals to come together as a community for both the educational events and celebrations. Through various activities, persons will be celebrating the culture, language, and heritage unique to the deaf people of the world. Persons will gain a better understanding of the deaf culture and recognise the various achievements of the community, including famous deaf individuals. Persons will also be exposed to sign language and other ways deaf and hard-of-hearing people communicate.

The purpose is to create a stronger community of learners and to understand that being deaf or hard of hearing is not a handicap or disability. Rather, they are all capable and intelligent individuals that have multiple ways in which they communicate.

Between normal hearing and profound hearing loss there are varying degrees of hearing loss, usually classified as mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe. Different degrees of hearing loss affect individuals differently. For example, a child with a ‘mild’ hearing loss will have significant problems in the classroom; so his or her hearing loss would be considered ‘educationally handicapping.’

A person with a moderate hearing loss may hear speech at a ‘whisper’, and people with moderately severe or poorer hearing will not hear normal speech unless spoken at high- volume levels. Most people with mild to moderate hearing loss hear much better in quiet rooms with only one person speaking, and have much more difficulty in noisy or group listening situations.

The good news is that modern hearing aids, if fitted properly, are able to significantly improve a person’s ability to hear and understand speech in virtually all listening environment. With today’s technology, there is no reason why with a properly fitted hearing aid and some auditory training, if needed, a person cannot hear and understand speech.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted communications in the deaf community, aggravating the barriers to communication equity. With masks needing to be worn to slow the spread of COVID-19 in many settings, especially in healthcare, it has become harder for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities to communicate through the use of lip reading or facial expressions when communicating.

However, the pandemic has also provided opportunities for creative solutions, such as wearing clear masks, using speech-to-text apps and other communication aid resources.

SOURCE: Speech and Hearing Association; Hearing Like Me; Jamaica Association For The Deaf