General Information About the Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- The severity of a person's hearing loss could be different at various frequencies. Therefore, his or her ability to hear different voices will vary depending on a number of factors, including the pitch of the voice. Also, a person's ability to hear a voice is different from the ability to discriminate between sounds and to understand speech.
- The life activity most affected by hearing loss is communication. Colleagues and friends must be versatile in finding an effective communication method.
- Some people who are deaf or hearing impaired know and use sign language, while others do not. For many people who use sign language, American Sign Language (ASL) is the first language used in the home. ASL is a recognized language with a unique syntax, grammar, and structure. It is not a form of English. Other people who use sign language use one of the manual codes for English that use the "vocabulary" of ASL signs with the grammar and syntax of English.
- People who are deaf or hearing impaired, like people who hear, have different education levels. Knowledge of English grammar, syntax, and spelling varies from individual to individual. A person who uses ASL as his or her primary language of communication may or may not be proficient in using standard English. The person who is not proficient in English is not stupid or illiterate. He or she just uses a different language to communicate.
- To get the attention of a person who is hearing impaired or deaf, vocalize a greeting, and if necessary, discreetly wave your hand or gently tap the person's shoulder. Wildly gesticulating, hitting the person, or throwing objects at the person is not appropriate.
- Pen and paper are handy communication devices in some situations.
- Although you want to avoid gross or exaggerated arm waving, pantomime is helpful.
- Be aware that if you point to an object or area during a conversation with a person who is deaf or hearing impaired, that person will most likely turn to look at where you are pointing. Do not continue speaking until they are facing you again.
- When talking to a person who is hearing impaired, position yourself so that any bright sunlight or other light is in front of you rather than in back of you. Keep your face out of shadows. Illuminate your face as much as possible.
- Remove from your mouth objects such as cigarettes, pipes, gum, chewing tobacco, or food. Keep your hands or any other objects from covering your mouth.
- If a person is speaking for himself or herself and you do not understand that person's speech, it is appropriate for you to ask him or her to repeat or even write down what is being said. Ask in a respectful, not condescending manner.
- Not all individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired can lipread, but many do and some do it quite well. Even good lipreaders, though, may miss words. It is important to check with the person to make sure you are communicating effectively. When a person is lipreading, enunciate clearly, but do not overenunciate your words as you will distort your lip movements and also look very foolish. Use your voice when talking to the person. Your lip movements will be more natural and the person can use his or her residual hearing for better understanding.
- Though not effective for all people who are deaf or hearing impaired, knowing some sign language and fingerspelling is helpful. Learn some elementary or "survival" signs from colleagues, coworkers, or managers who are deaf or hearing impaired.
- When using an interpreter, communicate directly with the person who is deaf or hearing impaired, rather than speaking as if he or she were not there. At times, the deaf or hearing impaired individual may choose to use the voice of the interpreter instead of his or her own voice. At all times avoid phrases like "tell him," or "How does she feel?" Talk through, not to, the interpreter. Talk to, not about, the person who is deaf or hearing impaired.
Unsure about your rights and responsibilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act? We will be happy to send a consultant to your business to insure compliance with the law.
SLIS is a woman-owned Virginia corporation and provides interpreting services to businesses, educational institutions and government agencies. SLIS also provides interpreting services for medical and legal situations as well as religious and social events.
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Sign Language Interpreting Services, Ltd.
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