TIPS ON HAVING TRAINING PARTICIPANT WITH HEARING IMPEARMENT

In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that 466 million people had a disabling hearing loss and that these numbers are increasing over time. This shows that the proportion of people who suffer from hearing loss is very high and it is therefore important to know what challenges hearing loss creates and how to adapt our behavior in order to optimize the inclusion of the hearing-impaired.  

Hearing loss can be divided into four categories, namely: mild, moderate, severe and profound. People with mild to severe hearing loss, also called “hard of hearing”, usually wear hearing aids or cochlear implants. Those with severe to profound hearing loss, called “deaf” will sometimes wear cochlear implants and will often rely on sign language for communication, which will sometimes be their native language.

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Inclusion during the training activity

In the ALL In Project we emphasized that it is important to get to know your training participants before the activity is very important. We prepared few tips on how to create a friendly, inclusive training environment. If you know that one/some of your participants have hearing impairment discuss this propositions and see which of them are the most suitable for their case because as you already know –  what works for some people does not work for all.

There are many gadgets that the hearing-impaired can use in their daily interactions. Some of them are provided by their devices’ firms. For instance, they might ask you to wear a small microphone connected to their aids while you speak. Some devices can send the sound from a microphone, TV, and other sources directly to the hearing device. In addition to these gadgets, hearing devices are already able to adapt to the surrounding noise thanks to some programs that will focus on the speech frequency in the room or even on the people speaking in front of the person who wears them.

For videos and audio files, some mobile phones can now be connected to some aids or implants with Bluetooth. For bigger events, equipping a room with an induction loop connected to a microphone can greatly help the hearing-impaired as they will receive the sound directly in their hearing devices instead of being overwhelmed with the surrounding noise. Technology is developing very fast and many people are happy with the newly acquired flexibility it provides. 

However, technology is not the only one that can help you interact with a hearing-impaired person. Your attitude can also create a safe space for them to feel included in the conversation.

The acoustics of the room you are in will influence communication as hearing people often don’t notice some noises that can be very disturbing for the hearing-impaired. This is the case for air conditioning, heaters, clocks and even the sound produced by neon lights, which can interfere with hearing devices.

The hearing-impaired rely heavily on context, lip-reading, visual elements, and non-verbal communication. The percentage of language understood thanks to lip-reading, only 30 to 45% in English language, is not enough for them to rely solely on lip-reading. Try to use gestures, articulate more than usually, face them while speaking, and make sure they can see you properly. If the person has a sign interpreter, give them time to translate and answer. If you are in a group discussion, try to place all speakers in a circle or U-shape in order for them to see everyone and, if possible, organize those discussions in smaller groups.

In order to help with lip-reading, Cued Speech has been created and adapted to around fifty different languages to help people who often interact with a hearing-impaired person. The National Cued Speech Association defines Cued Speech as “a visual communication system that uses eight handshapes in four different placements near the face in combination with the mouth movements of speech to make the sounds of spoken language look different from each other”[1].

Positive attitude is the key

Whatever the communication context, keep an open mind and be flexible. Don’t forget to ask for feedback to make sure the person is comfortable with the adjustments and settings. Act as naturally as possible when adjusting to the person’s needs as this will allow for a true sense of inclusion and will create a better environment for fruitful discussion or learning.

To learn more on how to make your training more inclusive for all visit: www.all-in-project.eu

 

[1] http://www.cuedspeech.org/cued-speech/about-cued-speech

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