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Living Life As A Hearing Impaired Person

Updated on July 10, 2012
Don't Know How To Sign
Don't Know How To Sign | Source

Have you ever thought what it would be like to not have the ability to hear? A few years ago I took an American Sign Language class and I learned so much.

For example, how easy it is for one to visit the doctor when it is necessary, just use the telephone to make an appointment and talk to the doctor and he/she explains what the problem is. We are such fortunate people. Now, just pretend for a moment, that one is deaf. Making the telephone call may not be so easy, as a third person has to be involved to interpret the messages from the caller to the doctors office. Here I am trying to explain to the doctor my symptoms and he/she takes my temperature, blood pressure, listens to my heart, looks in my throat and writes me a prescription.


In situations such as these, deaf patients should be able to communicate the same as hearing people. Unfortunately, too many deaf people leave their doctor’s office knowing that their doctor did not understand what the problem is. There are so many places that hearing people take for granted but for a deaf person it can be a very different experience.

It is rather amazing to think that a deaf person can visit their doctor and know that the doctor did not understand what was said to them. The other problem is how does the doctor communicate to the patient? The British Medical Journal informs us that “more than a fifth of deaf and hard of hearing patients leave a doctor’s appointment unsure with what is wrong with them" (Beecham, p.1). One of the problems here is that the doctor does not check to see if the patient understood what was said to them. Unfortunately, one tenth of deaf people avoid going to visit their doctor because they do not want to face an uncomfortable situation. This is absolutely shameful! Especially as 87% of doctors believe that they communicate effectively with their patients (Beecham p. 1).

In 1973 the Rehabilitation Act came into effect. This act made it against the law to discriminate any person just because they have a disability. Then in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. Both of these laws made it against the law to discriminate against individuals who had a disability such as loss of hearing, or any other disability that affected one “major life activity” (Beecham p. 1). The laws also required that any facility, either public or private, that had “15 or more employees” (Sheehan, p. 1), had to give their employees the same privileges and services whether they are deaf or hearing. For deaf people this means that closed-captioned television or access to the telecommunication device (TDD) should be available where needed. Most employers do not want their employees watching television, but places where televisions are permitted such as hospitals, waiting rooms, and restaurants should have closed-captioned television. I have tried to watch a program with the sound turned down and it is very difficult. I am pleased that the federal laws came about, as out of every 1000 people almost 6 people are “deaf in both ears” Sheehan, p.1). As a matter of fact, in New Jersey a hospital had a $7000,000 settlement with four patients who are deaf and for over ten years were denied sign language interpreters. Rather astounding. The federal law now states that hospitals and doctors offices provide a way to communicate with their patients effectively. This is usually in terms of having an interpreter on staff, or using flash cards, or even writing things down on paper.


An article I read in Woman’s World (Kiffel, p. 6-7) gave a very real example of how having an interpreter on hand can make all the difference. The article is about a deaf boy who had lots of hearing friends and good relationships with them. The problem was that the boy attended a school for the deaf that apparently he did not like. The mum decides to enroll her son in public school and it was a very successful experience. The teacher had prepared her students for a deaf classmate and the school had an interpreter on staff. Consequently, the boy was not seen as a freak but a normal person who just could not hear. Unfortunately, not all situations end so happily.

In some situations, the ADA and Rehabilitation Act include the deaf person’s family members, especially if the family member is the primary caretaker. An article written in Caring for the Deaf gives an example of how a family was not given these rights immediately and the result was death. A deaf woman’s husband suffered a heart attack and at the hospital was given a person who could fingerspell to interpret for her as opposed to someone who could sign. Consequently, the woman’s husband died. He may have died anyway, but because the deaf lady and the doctor could not understand each other treatment was not immediately given to the patient (Sheehan, p.2

Researching this article has made me acutely aware of how thankful I am to be able to hear - birds, the ocean, people talking, people singing, and even people arguing..,

Let's be grateful and compassionate.

Do you know any hearing impaired people?

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If you do know any hearing impaired people, could you communicate with them?

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    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Florida

      Millionaire Tip, thanks for the read and comment. Yes, I cannot imagine life that way either. Makes me VERY thankful :)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      It would be very hard to be hearing impaired or deaf. I had a friend who was hearing impaired but she could hear with the use of a hearing device. I would have to rely on talking loudly or writing, since I do not know any sign language. We do take so much for granted. Voted up for bringing up this very important topic.

    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Rhonda, what a joy to hear your sister's voice for the first time. What an inspiration too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Rhonda D Johnson profile image

      Rhonda D Johnson 

      7 years ago from Somewhere over the rainbow

      Twelve years ago, I received a cochlear implant, which restored my sense of hearing afer twelve years of profound deafness. I heard my 11 year old sister's voice for the first time in her life. Since I am a late deafened adult, I was aware of the things I had forgotten but still no less amazed by: hearing someone on the other side of a door when I knocked, water falling into the sink when I washed my face, plastic bags which I had not known because when I could hear before, they were using paper bags. The sound of such things just fascinated me. Even my own voice sounded like it was coming from somewhere else because I wasn't used to connecting sound to the movements I made with my vocal cords.

      It's not wrong to take things for granted. That's a part of the blessing that we can enjoy things without always fretting about losing them.

      Thanks for this hub.

    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Thank you teaches12345 and dannetteWatt, I learned so much when I took the ASL class and it was such an eye opener. thanks for your comments :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for reminding us of the challenges faced by the hearing impaired. It must be difficult to try to explain simple things to your Doctor. It would be quite frustrating indeed. Great hub topic and voted up!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Interesting article BJC. I've had a long time interest in sign language and deaf issues.

      Apparently I went temporarily deaf when I was 5, due to an inner ear problem. When I was 13, I became very interested in the deaf and sign language. One of my brother's friends parents were both deaf and he showed me a few signs. My mom gave me a sign language book for my 13th b'day which I still have and at one time I seriously considered being an interpreter for the deaf. I started taking the program but then switched to journalism.

    • BJC profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      I know, it makes you realise how much we take for granted. Thanks for commenting !

    • WillStarr profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Several months ago, I experienced a sudden hearing loss in my right ear. I was totally deaf in that ear. Thankfully, my hearing returned, but I had an inking of what it's like and a profound new respect for hearing impairment.

      Excellent Hub, BJC!


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