Mid-South Access Center for Technology (ACT) College of Education, Health and Human Sciences Mid-South Access Center for Technology (ACT)
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Hearing Impairments

What Are Hearing Impairments?

Hearing impairments encompass a range of conditions -- from slight hearing loss to deafness.

Individuals may be deaf or hard of hearing and be able to speak clearly. Employers may place them in almost any type of position, except those for which acute hearing is a legitimate safety requirement. Even in those circumstances, employers should perform an individualized assessment. Such persons may need extra time in settings where there is a lot of oral communication, such as interviews and meetings.

Communication difficulties should not be regarded as indicative of more extensive impairments and should not be allowed to obscure an applicant's knowledge, skills and abilities. In many situations, it may be necessary to obtain the services of a qualified sign language interpreter to provide effective communication if the person who is deaf or hard of hearing uses sign language as his or her primary means of communication. Other accommodations that may be necessary include the use of assistive listening systems and devices for persons who are hard of hearing, or computer-assisted real-time transcription (CART).

People who have hearing impairments might be able to hear some sound, but might not be able to distinguish words.

People with this type of hearing impairment can use an amplifying device to provide functional hearing.

Other people might not be able to hear sound at all.

Consider the following suggestions when interacting with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing:

To get the attention of a person with a hearing impairment, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand.

When speaking with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, face the person directly. Attract his or her visual attention before starting a conversation. For instance, if you are entering his or her office and the person's back is to you, flicker the room lights.

Show consideration by placing yourself facing the light source and keeping your hands, cigarettes, and food away from your mouth while speaking.

When speaking to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, use meaningful facial expressions and gestures to emphasize your intent and attitude. This helps to substitute for your tone of voice. Try to find a quiet place away from computers, telephones, and other sources of noise, that has adequate lighting.

Not all people who are deaf or hard of hearing know or use sign language. Do not assume they need interpreters.

If using a sign language or oral interpreter, speak directly to the person with the hearing impairment, not the interpreter. Speak clearly, in a normal tone of voice, and keep your hands away from your face.

Do not shout at a hearing impaired person. Shouting distorts sounds accepted through hearing aids and inhibits lip reading.

If you cannot understand the person with a hearing impairment, do not be afraid to ask him or her to repeat the message. If this approach does not work, you can ask if it would be helpful to communicate by writing or using a computer terminal.

If you are with someone with a hearing disability in a group, provide whatever support with which the person is comfortable so that the person can follow what is being said.

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Last Updated: 7/10/12