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Hearing loss - how you can help

November 8, 2011 | Suk Yin | Comments (6)

According to Canadian Hearing Society Awareness Survey, almost one in four adult Canadians reports having a hearing loss. I'm one of them. 

Due to illness in infancy, I lost all hearing for high frequency sounds. I have been unable to hear higher frequency or "sibilant" sounds such as "s" "th" and many others all my life and was often teased as "tongue tied." I didn't learn about my hearing disability until I was thirty years old when, by chance, I approached a speech pathologist who was outreaching at a shopping mall.

While some forms of disability such as blindness or mobility issues are quickly evident, hearing loss is not, either to the person with the disability or to those around them. In fact, people with hearing loss don't understand the problem until they actually cannot hear or carry on a normal conversation. No one wants to interrupt a conversation by constantly asking people to repeat what they say and most people are not eager to acknowledge a disability. So how do people with hearing loss react when they cannot hear?

Three different types of reaction

  1. Passive
    • pretend to understand by smiling or nodding the head (often not looking very smart by doing so)
    • withdraw from the conversation
    • result in poor communication or isolation
  2. Aggressive
    • express needs openly in a strong way that puts others on the defensive
    • react in a hostile manner to the speaker
    • look frustrated or angry
    • dominates the conversation (try to talk to avoid listening)
  3. Assertive
    • admit problems and ask for help
    • respect others
    • take initiative to improve the communication situation

How can you help?

Communication tips (Source: Canadian Hearing Society) 

  • Try not to cover your moth or lipsHearing_loss huh
  •  Always face the person you are talking to
  • Speak normally - don't shout or yell
  • Speak at a moderate pace - not too quickly - what you're saying needs to be processed and figured out
  • Avoid dim areas which make it difficult to speechread
  • When speaking to someone who is hard of hearing, try to reduce surrounding noise or go to a quieter area if possible
  • Explore alternative ways of communicating, such as writing on a whiteboard, using pen and paper or showing examples of what needs to be done
  • Confirm that your message is received, possibly by asking the recipient to repeat the message back



The Accessibility Services Blog provides information and updates on current and upcoming library trends, programs, collections, and services to existing and potential TPL customers with disabilities, along with their friends and family. The blog offers a forum through which library customers can interact with TPL and share feedback and ideas, and communicate with staff. Features of the blog include highlights on special collections and assistive technologies available through the library, opportunities to get involved, and staff recommendations for programs, books and other materials.