Diverse identities exist within the hearing loss community

One of the really troublesome issues facing hard of hearing, late deafened, and oral deaf persons is establishing their identity. Persons with hearing loss often feel that they are no aren’t really connected to either the hearing world or the deaf world. Their isolation from the hearing world is generally due to their hearing loss, and their isolation from the deaf world is generally due to not being part of the Deaf Culture and it’s heavy reliance on sign language.

The Awakening OHL Community – a real-time study of the efforts of members of the oral hearing loss (OHL) community to acquire services and support appropriate to their needs.

Coping with hearing loss is a lot more than just getting hearing aids.

Here are some real-life stories of people with hearing loss and how it affects their lives.

Baby Boomers! They’ve impacted every aspect of American life for the last fifty years. And now they’re taking on hearing loss!

Denial is more than the name of a river in Egypt! It’s a common response to hearing loss, and one that can be perplexing to family members and friends. Why are people with hearing loss so likely to be in denial, and what can you do about it?

Who’s Who provides a set of admittedly imperfect definitions of the groups of persons with hearing loss.

Examples provides current and historical real world examples of identity confusion.

December 2012 – I. King Jordan Proves That ‘Deaf People Can Do Anything-but Hear’

December 2012 – People under 65 fastest growing group with hearing loss

July 2012 – Hearing loss an ‘invisible,’ and widely uninsured, problem

May 2012 – Old or Young, We’re All Hearing Better than Ever

May 2012 – No hearing treatment despite hearing difficulties

April 2012 – Competition to Increase Public Awareness and Action for Hearing Loss

March 2012 – Public’s denial driving frustrations of the deaf

March 2012 – Hearing-impaired people need friends and some patience

December 2011 – The chicken and the egg: Cognitive decline and hearing loss

December 2011 – Study Shows Hearing Aids Improve Quality of Life

November 2011 – One in five Americans has hearing loss!

September 2011 – Gallaudet University adjusts to a culture that includes more hearing students

July 2011 – The Poetry of Elena Kras

July 2011 – Among Twists in Budget Woes, Tensions Over Teaching the Deaf

June 2011 – HLAA Convention Keynote Address: The Rest of the Artinian Story

May 2011 – AAMHL Plans Music Event to Coincide with HLAA Convention

April 2011 – Hearing loss in teen girls on the rise

April 2011 – Oticon Focus on People Awards Seeks Nominations

March 2011 – People with Untreated Hearing Loss Earn Less

March 2011 – Hearing Loss Rate in Older Adults Climbs to More than 60 Percent in National Survey

March 2011 – New Study Reports 2 out of 3 Americans Over Age 70 Have Hearing Loss

March 2011 – BHI Highlights Connection between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

March 2011 – People with Chronic Kidney Disease Should Have Their Hearing Checked

February 2011 – Hearing Impairment Common, Perhaps Preventable, for Middle-Age Adults

February 2011 – EuroTrak I: A Consumer Survey About Hearing Aids in Germany, France, and the UK

February 2011 – 1 in 9 people aged 45-54 is hearing impaired

December 2010 – American Adults Hear Better Than They Did 40 Years Ago

July 2010 – Survey Explores American Attitudes about Hearing Loss

May 2010 – The “Stigma” of Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids

January 2010 – 17 Misconceptions about People with Hearing Loss

January 2010 – Number of Americans with Hearing Loss

April 2009 – AG Bell Denounces Demonstrations

April 2009 – Audism Free America: Outcomes of the Historic Meeting and Rally at the AG Bell Association Headquarters

March 2009 – Ten Misconceptions about People with Hearing Loss

March 2009 – Is There a Hard of Hearing Culture?

Oct 2008 – Does Hearing Loss Affect or Change Your Personality?

Aug 2008 – Hearing Loss May Be More Widespread Than Thought

May 2008 – People with Hearing Loss Miss Sounds of Friends and Family

May 2008 – What Sound do People with Hearing Loss Miss Most?

April 2008 – Have hearing loss? Group offers help with daily living

April 2008 – Absenteeism Higher Among Hearing Impaired People

March 2008 – Better Hearing Institute Publishes Legal Rights Guide for Individuals with Hearing Loss

January 2008 – Untreated Hearing Loss Impacting American Youth

October 2007 – Hearing-impaired comedian encourages communication

October 2007 – Here’s Denise Portis’ “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

June 2007 – Playing in a Festival Orchestra

May 2007 – New Findings Uncover Disparity in Attitudes About Hearing Loss

May 2007 – Deaf pianist imagines sound

May 2007 – Hearing Loss Negatively Affects Relationships

April 2007 – I Can Hear You Now

March 2007 – Silence in a Hearing World

February 2007 – Documentary chronicles 200 years of deaf life in America

February 2007 – People Who “Get It”

January 2007 – Pros and Cons of Sign Language

January 2007 – Deaf children without barriers

December 2006 – The Night Before HOH Christmas – an adaptation of the traditional poem.

October 2006 – Here’s our report on Dr. Sanjay Gulati’s Keynote Speech entitled “Re-inventing Deafness” at ALDAcon 2006.

October 2006 – To Which World Do You Belong?

October 2006 – From ALDAcon 2006 – Dr. Lucy Miller’s Poignant Story – Where Do I Fit In?

October 2006 – ALDAcon 2006 Presentation – Coaching and Late Onset Hearing Loss – A Partnership that Works

September 2006 – Have you used some of these negative hearing loss coping strategies?

August 2006 – Treat hearing loss like any other aging problem

August 2006 – Here are some interesting quotes about hearing loss from famous Americans.

August 2006 – Scots Reluctant to Wear Hearing Aids

July 2006 – Why People Delay Dealing with Hearing Loss

July 2006 – Have you ever wondered what life is like for kids raised by parents with hearing loss?  Here with one parent’s reflections on the topic is Denise Portis.

June 2006 – Non-Hispanic blacks have best hearing in US, new study shows

May 2006 – Can You Repeat the Question?

April 2006 – For the first time in history (as far as we know) a deaf student is elected president of a university student body comprised primarily of hearing folks!

January 2006 – Connie Briscoe’s Hearing Loss Story

December 2005 – Ever wonder what it might be like to be a wait person with hearing loss? Here’s Erin Geld’s compelling story about her experiences.

May 2005 – At the 2005 Western Symposium on Deafness (WSD) Dr. John Schroedel and Dr. Douglas Watson of the University of Arkansas presented an excellent workshop entitled “Patterns in the Employment and Vocational Rehabilitation of Hard of Hearing Persons”.

May 2005 – Another interesting WSD workshop by Drs. Schroedel and Watson examined hard of hearing college students.

January 2002 – Just who comprises the hearing loss community? Here’s an article with some of the demographics related to hearing loss.

October 2000 – You’ve probably seen the terms “disability”, “handicap”, and “impairment” used in almost interchangeable ways. In fact, they really have rather specific meanings. Here’s an article I wrote and some interesting reader responses.

More on this and related topics

I. King Jordan Proves That ‘Deaf People Can Do Anything-but Hear’

December 2012

After losing his hearing due to a motorcycle accident when he was 21, I. King Jordan spent a lot of time denying the fact he was deaf. He says he considered himself “a hearing person who couldn’t hear for a long time.” Now Jordan, who became the first deaf president of Gallaudet University in 1988, has become a champion for what deaf people can accomplish. As he told a reporter when he was named president, “Deaf people can do anything-but hear.” Next March marks the 25th anniversary of the weeklong student-led protests at Gallaudet University that ushered Jordan into the school’s presidency. The protests began when Gallaudet’s board of trustees named a hearing person as president, but students and faculty felt it was time for a deaf president to lead the school instead. The protests, which became known as the Deaf President Now movement, ended with King’s appointment. After 18 years as Gallaudet’s president, Jordan stepped down in 2006, but he maintains close ties to the deaf community and remains an advocate for the disabled.  

People under 65 fastest growing group with hearing loss

December 2012

If you think only senior citizens need hearing aids, you’re wrong: The fastest-growing group of people with hearing loss is under 65. At 51, Kent Reinking never planned to need hearing aids. But decades of exposure to noisy farm equipment permanently damaged his hearing. “I didn’t think it was that bad, but the rest of my family — they were the ones that informed me I needed to get something accomplished so that I could hear what was going on,” he said. The Oelwein man’s audiologist at Hearing Unlimited in Waterloo’s Covenant Medical Center says more young people are experiencing hearing loss. “People avoid it for a very long time. Most people wait eight years before they do something about their hearing loss,” said Dr. Seema Arab. “A majority of people that have hearing loss are actually under 65.” Arab says the effectiveness of hearing aids depends on a lot more than simply buying a pair. 

Hearing loss an ‘invisible,’ and widely uninsured, problem

July 2012

If you lose a leg, insurance will likely cover the cost of your prosthesis. If you lose your arm, it’s the same. Even if you lose your ability to perform sexually, more than likely your Viagra is covered. But if you start to lose your hearing, far too often you are on your own. If hearing loss were officially considered a disability, it would rank as the largest disability class in the country. Some 37 million people suffer from hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that number will only grow as the population ages. Yet most private medical insurance doesn’t cover the cost of hearing aids. While the Department of Veterans Affairs often pays for them, in most cases Medicare, which covers many more people, does not. 

Public’s denial driving frustrations of the deaf

March 2012

While more than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, deafness itself is not widespread, which is why many hearing people have never even met a deaf person before. Isn’t it safe to assume many of these parents never have, either? If that’s true, what immediate reason would they have to distrust the signing deaf community? It’s not as if these parents find out their child is deaf, go on the Internet, discover a deaf community sharply divided between supporters of oralism and manualism, panic, and somehow decide they’ll embrace the oral camp while never trusting any single living American Sign Language user ever again. What’s much more likely is that these parents come to suspect deafness and go to an audiologist. So how is it possible the distrust runs deep on both sides at this point? The deaf community hasn’t even entered the picture yet! 

Hearing-impaired people need friends and some patience

March 2012

Imagine yourself in a country where nobody speaks your language. It becomes a necessity to rely on your other senses and hone your powers of observation. You welcome the times when you can “fill in the blanks” and get the gist of a conversation. Each situation is stressful: Will you be a participant or an observer? This is the life of a hearing-impaired person. We are not deaf, and, therefore, most of us do not read lips, sign or wear hearing devices 100% of the time. We try to preserve whatever hearing we have left. We walk softly on the fine line between the hearing and deaf communities. 

The chicken and the egg: Cognitive decline and hearing loss

December 2011

Duane Davis, a volunteer for the Hearing Loss Association of Oregon, is afraid he may turn out to be a living example of the latest research correlating hearing loss with brain atrophy. Although that investigation at the University of Pennsylvania linked hearing loss late in life with cognitive decline,.Davis said he needs no scientific proof that mental processes can feel pulverized by a hearing problem, even when his own brain seems to be working just fine. “There you are, in a conversation, and you hear something like ‘squeeze me’ instead of ‘excuse me,’ and you are trying to figure it all out,” said Davis, who periodically interrupted his own speech to inquire if he “sounds OK.” “You have to process the mumbling,” he said. “You are slow to respond. I am actually doing more thinking to overcome my loss of hearing doing all that, but then you get to thinking maybe you should just avoid conversation.” And when you do that, he said, things can really go downhill. “Stop having conversations, and you stop seeing people.” 

Gallaudet University adjusts to a culture that includes more hearing students

September 2011

The quiet campus of Gallaudet University in Northeast Washington was always a place where students could speak the unspoken language of deaf America and be understood. That is no longer so true. For the first time in living memory, significant numbers of freshmen at the nation’s premiere university for the deaf and hard of hearing arrive lacking proficiency in American Sign Language and experience with deaf culture. Rising numbers of Gallaudet students are products of a hearing world. The share of undergraduates who come from mainstream public schools rather than residential schools for the deaf has grown from 33 percent to 44 percent in four years. The number of students with cochlear implants, which stimulate the auditory nerve to create a sense of sound, has doubled to 102 since 2005.   

Among Twists in Budget Woes, Tensions Over Teaching the Deaf

July 2011

Politicians have seen plenty of demonstrators outside the Statehouse here. But the crowd that gathered last month was a bit different from the usual shouting protesters.  Scores of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families assembled to complain in American Sign Language. Parents also have confronted new board members of the state’s school for the deaf in pointed, awkward exchanges. And more objections are expected when the board convenes next month for what had, until now, been ordinary meetings on routine school matters.  At the root of the tension is a debate that stretches well beyond Indiana: Will sign language and the nation’s separate schools for the deaf be abandoned as more of the deaf turn to communicating, with help from fast-evolving technology, through amplified sounds and speech?  

AAMHL Plans Music Event to Coincide with HLAA Convention

May 2011

The Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL) will host a handbell workshop and 10th anniversary celebration on Sat Jun 18, 2011, from 10 am – 3 pm EDT. The event will be located within walking distance of the HLAA Convention. These folks prove that you don’t have to give up music just because you have hearing loss! 

New Study Reports 2 out of 3 Americans Over Age 70 Have Hearing Loss

March 2011

A new study published in the Journals of Gerontology reported that hearing loss is prevalent in about two thirds of adults age 70 and older. Hearing instrument use was reported at approximately 40% in those with moderate hearing loss and only 3% for those with mild hearing loss. The study analyzed data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, examined audiometry results, and obtained demographic and potential epidemiological factors (i.e. noise exposure) via interviews from 717 older adults. The researchers, from Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland and the National Institute on Aging, defined hearing loss in this study as a speech frequency Pure Tone Average (PTA) of greater than 25 dB in the better ear. 

Hearing Impairment Common, Perhaps Preventable, for Middle-Age Adults

February 2011

According to a new study in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, cardiovascular disease risk factors may be important correlates of age-related auditory dysfunction. However, if hearing impairment is detected early, it may be a preventable chronic disease. Several factors may be associated with hearing impairment in middle-aged adults, including cardiovascular disease risks, being male, and having a noisy job, according to the study, to be published in the May 2011 issue. In background information in the article, the authors estimate that at least 29 million Americans have a hearing impairment. “Population-based epidemiological prevalence estimates range from 20.6%t in adults aged 48 to 59 years to 90% in adults older than 80 years,” the author report. “The severity of this condition has been shown to be associated with a poorer quality of life, communication difficulties, impaired activities of daily living, dementia, and cognitive dysfunction.”  

EuroTrak I: A Consumer Survey About Hearing Aids in Germany, France, and the UK

February 2011

In 2009, the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA aisbl) initiated a comprehensive study on hearing impairment, as well as the prevalence and use of hearing aids, in three of Europe’s largest countries: Germany, France, and the UK. The study, called EuroTrak, was designed and carried out by the Switzerland-based market research company Anovum, and is based (where practical) on the consumer questionnaires found in the North American MarkeTrak studies -more than 20 years of data that can be accessed from the Better Hearing Institute (www.betterhearing.org). The findings in the following article show many correlations between EuroTrak and MarkeTrak data. Nevertheless, demographic differences and divergent health care systems appear to impact hearing loss awareness, ownership of hearing aids (adoption), and other factors related to hearing aid use, including customer satisfaction. 

1 in 9 people aged 45-54 is hearing impaired

February 2011

A new survey of mostly middle-aged adults reveals that among people aged 45 to 54, one in nine shows signs of hearing impairment. The researchers tested hearing in more than 2,800 adults between the ages of 21 to 84. Over that large range, one in seven had lost some degree of hearing, and as expected, the rate of hearing loss increased with age. Almost all of those older than 80 – about 90 percent – had lost some hearing, but the rate had already reached one in nine among adults 45 to 54 years old, the largest age group in the population.  

To Which World Do You Belong?

By Michael Gergley

October 2006

To which world do you belong, the hearing of the deaf? When asked this question I would have to say, “Neither. I’m between two worlds. I’m hard of hearing.” And although my primary means of communication is oral, I don’t identify with the hearing world. Alternately although I have a severe hearing loss and use assistive listening devices such as a hearing aid, my residual hearing leaves me feeling I don’t belong in the deaf community, either. So I’m left as the lyrics to a favorite song of mine say to ponder, “Where do I belong?”

Ironically enough, I have ‘heard’ the answer, not in some lecture or after reading some book on hearing loss. Nor was it a one-time happening where a tiny light bulb went on in my head, revealing in full color and sound where indeed I DID and DO belong. It HAS and WILL continue to be a process of self-discovery for me.

So what does all this mean for my everyday challenges to find answers and have my unique needs met? Perhaps the best personal experience I can share was during a discussion on hearing loss during my graduate degree studies working towards my Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. Many hearing loss related issues were spoken about, but some, like being deaf and being hard of hearing, were grouped together as if their needs were the same. I took advantage of this opportunity to educate others about my unique world. And though I still sometimes feel between two worlds and I seem to always have to educate somebody else, in my world is where I belong.

Scots Reluctant to Wear Hearing Aids

August 2006

Editor: It seems that almost a third of Scots are reluctant to wear hearing aids, because they think it would make them seem old or disabled. I’ve never seen numbers reported for the US, but I bet they’re at least as high! Here’s the press release from Hear-it Press

Fear of being labelled old or disabled makes the Scots reluctant to seek treatment for hearing problems.

According to a survey on hearing loss in Scotland, around 29% of Scots think hearing aids would make them look old. More importantly, almost a third of Scots believe hearing aids would make them look disabled and would not wear a hearing aid even if they needed one.

The Scottish survey highlights the stigma surrounding hearing loss and the use of hearing aids. Although most hearing problems can easily be helped, people are often unaware that they have a problem, or they are in denial about it.

It is estimated that 4 million people in the UK could benefit from a hearing aid. Hearing aids can help a person with a hearing loss at any age and are more effective if fitted early.

Deafness Research UK has launched a campaign to encourage people to admit the problem and seek early help. The campaign aims to help people recognise the early signs of hearing loss and what they can do about it.

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