First steps to understanding the needs of a deaf person

Hearing is not the same as understanding

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.

In fact, 'hear' is not really a particularly helpful word because it is so ambiguous. It is certainly true that a sound may not loud enough for a deaf person, but other more important questions need to be asked, particularly for 'hearing' speech.

Whether or not a deaf person can 'hear' that someone is speaking is nowhere near as helpful as whether they can listen to it comfortably and 'interpret' it for what it is.

How to find out the needs of a deaf person

The following questions are the quickest way in for exploring the most common likely needs of a deaf person. You will need to be circumspect is asking them, though, as deaf people often try to pretend that they are not deaf, because they think that deafness makes them look old and stupid.

Yet only when one has identified problems can one tackle them.

  • 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? This is commonly the case.
  • If so, 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.

This website is dedicated to suggesting ways that deaf people and those who interact with them can develop strategies for coping - see the menus on the home page.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is for a lay audience and I cannot be responsible for errors or omissions. The views, strategies, advice and suggestions etc are based on my personal experience and are not necessarily appropriate for anyone else. They should, hopefully, stimulate individuals to develop their own strategies.