Hard of hearing, deaf culture issues not in mainstream news

As we seem focused on things like black history and injustice, our hard of hearing and deaf community is sadly neglected. Estimates are that 1 out of every 20 of us have a hearing problem of some sort.

Yet nothing is ever newsworthy unless one of us gets in some sort of legal trouble. Many of us have been branded as deaf and dumb. Employment discrimination is huge… rarely, if ever, is such discrimination proven. Yet we frequently get paid lower wages than our hearing coworkers. We also have less medical insurance coverage for our hearing needs, even vocational rehabilitation has had its funding cuts so that we have lost a lot of freedom to choose what best meets our needs. I always thought it was odd that eyeglasses when covered, included both eyes, but most insurance policies only allow for one hearing aid with a big copay.

The general population does not always respect our culture. If we misunderstand what is said, it is a whole new problem. Many people don’t know how to respond when we don’t hear them clearly, some people shout instead of speaking clearly, others get frustrated and give up. All that is very stressful for us. We sometimes just go along with the crowd’s reaction to fit in. With masks, many who lipread, cannot do that.

Our educational systems do not offer sign language classes in all our communities, yet for many of us those would be very helpful. Some colleges offer assistance for us, but not all. In fact, some schools do not allow sign language to be used, instead they stress the oral spoken words. Trying to speak orally when you don’t hear the sounds is not easy to do.

I don’t know what changes can be done, it is a very human problem of acceptance, even among the deaf and hard of hearing some are embarrassed to wear hearing aids or even admit that they have a hearing problem.

It does affect our lifestyle daily. Childhood hearing problems mean that one of our five senses are not working so we do have some developmental issues and may not respond quite the same as our hearing companions. That doesn’t mean we are dumb; it does allow us to have empathy for others that some hearing people may not have. It is not a disability, it is an inability, we are capable, and we can do many, many things if allowed. Yet even technical tools are not always available for us. Paying for them when they are can be a hardship.

Some audiologists are not serving our needs but seeking to make money from their sales. The costs for hearing equipment is so high that many seniors on limited budgets choose to do without aids or attempt to keep very old models working for them. Technical changes are always coming so the hearing aids and cochlear implants are always improving, but health insurance companies do not meet these costs without huge copays, if they even have coverage for us. — Juanita Thomas, Davison Township