Understanding Hearing Loss and Deafness
Hearing loss can vary from slight loss to complete deafness. Some individuals may wear hearing aids. Some persons with hearing loss use sign language to communicate, others read lips and are able to speak, and some use a combination of both methods.
People with hearing loss face challenges in communicating, particularly in crowds. This difficulty may result in feelings of loneliness, frustration, anger, low self-worth, hopelessness, and depression.
Ways to Help
- Consult with the individual and the family to assess needs and determine what resources are available. Be sensitive that a person’s reading and writing abilities may be different from his or her ability to communicate with sign language.
- Consult with the individual, the family, or the caregiver to determine how the person communicates, how he or she learns best, and what assistance is needed in order for him or her to participate and learn. This information will help in deciding how to best meet the member’s needs.
- Make every reasonable effort to help individuals with hearing loss and deafness interact with other members to help them understand what is being said and to share their own thoughts and feelings. Assistance for individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf may include:
- Hearing devices
- FM systems
- Closed, open, or real-time captioning
- The use of sign language and interpreters if the individual knows sign
- Find ways to communicate. Write words or draw pictures on paper. Use a word processor or computer. If requested or if it will be helpful, have someone take notes.
- Look directly at the person and speak normally. If the person does not understand a word, repeat the word or use another word that means the same thing. Do not speak louder.
- Find ways to present information visually. For example, use pictures, a projector, posters, or a whiteboard. Be sure to allow the individual time to read before continuing. Individuals with hearing loss often rely on visual means as a way to learn.
- Introduce and explain vocabulary. Review new words and information frequently.
- Ask if your chapel is equipped with amplification systems and listening devices.
- Use closed-captioning or subtitles where available. Be sure the equipment is set up before a meeting starts.
- Discover how the family or caregiver communicates with the individual.
Those Who Are Deaf and Use ASL
If there is a member in your ward who is deaf and uses sign language, consider the following ideas to help him or her feel welcome and included in your ward:
- Look at a person when the person signs, and speak directly to him or her. Do not focus your attention on the interpreter.
- Consider setting up a sign language class on a ward or stake basis.
- Direct them to ASL materials at asl.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
- In group settings, individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf and their interpreters can “listen” to only one person at a time. You will need to pause long enough for the interpreter to finish before expecting the person to respond to you.
- Make sure that lighting is adequate and that the person has a clear view of the person who is talking or of the interpreter. Avoid having the person who is speaking standing in front of a window or bright light that will cast a shadow on his or her face. Bring a flashlight when you darken the room.
- Be aware that there are several devices (such as a TDD [Telecommunication Device for the Deaf], text messaging on cell phones, or electronic pagers) or relay services (telephone or videophone) that can assist members with hearing loss to communicate over the phone. Some devices may be available for use in Church buildings and may be ordered by members of a stake presidency, a stake physical facilities representative, or a multistake preventive maintenance supervisor.
- Find an interpreter if possible. Seek assistance from ward members, priesthood leaders, missionaries returning from missions serving the deaf, family members, community agencies, and interpreter training programs. If parents or family members are the only regular interpreters, it is often wise to find others to interpret. This gives deaf individuals another avenue for interacting with others and can lighten the demands on frequently overburdened family members.
- Create a list of qualified interpreters. Solicit names from local priesthood leaders to add to your list.
- Arrange seating for the individual and interpreter near the teacher or speaker, but not in such a prominent way as to distract other members of the class or congregation.
Church Membership Records
Members who use sign language and their families may choose to have their Church membership records in one of the following places:
- Their home ward
- A designated host ward within a geographic area to which a group for the deaf is assigned
- A ward or branch organized for members who use sign language