“Teaching Moments: Helping the Hearing-Impaired,” Ensign, Mar. 1996, 62
As a person with hearing loss, I know how much more those like me can gain from Church meetings if class instructors and other ward members are aware of our needs. Hearing-impaired persons should not feel uncomfortable about making their needs known to organization and class leaders so that any needed consideration and accommodation can be given. Some helpful suggestions for those leaders and other members follow.
Try to obtain a classroom with carpeting, cushioned chairs, and drapes for classes we will be attending. All these things help to soften distracting sounds that can be too easily amplified by hearing aids.
Seat those with hearing loss near the front. Since we hear with our eyes, we watch a speaker’s lips, eyes, hands, and body movements. The farther back we are seated, the more we can be distracted by other movement and sounds within the room. Also, hearing aids are of limited help because their optimal operating distance is only about ten feet.
Encourage us to participate in class discussions. Ask us to read or answer questions. Be patient and tolerant if we speak loudly or too softly. Ask, “Are there any questions?” to check that we have understood.
Speak naturally or even a bit slowly, and if you are teaching, try to face us while you teach. Articulate clearly, but do not exaggerate mouth movements. Speaking fast or shouting garbles the sound.
Visual aids are very helpful. Referring to handouts, making chalkboard notes, and using the overhead projector aid us in following the discussion.
When sitting by someone who is hard of hearing, you may wish to take notes and then let the person see them. I once had the special privilege of sitting next to a lovely sister who took notes for me all during sacrament meeting. I have always cherished that hour of sitting by her side. Sometimes a thoughtful ward member will show me the page in the hymn book if it is not posted, or let me see which scripture we have just been asked to turn to. These small favors are very appreciated.
Remember that it demands tremendous concentration for those with hearing loss to follow what is being said in Church meetings. The process of learning is sometimes frustrating and stressful. But as ward members kindly reach out in small ways to assist us in this difficult process, we, too, feel the Spirit’s presence in Church meetings, learn of the doctrine, and take joy in the love of our ward family.—Aletha Gilbert, Salt Lake City, Utah