For the Deaf or Hard of Hearing person, speech comprehension is complex and involves a variety of coping skills. We use facial and body language to infer meaning. We use the hearing aid or the cochlear implant processor to hear those words. The technology of those aids and processors is crucial, as well as the programming of them, because if they don’t work, aren’t reliable, or powerful enough, programmed incorrectly, they don’t help us much at all. God forbid we need to go without because of an ear infection, illness, injury, headache etc..
There are other factors that impact our success at speech comprehension and language development as children. A few examples are: lighting, noise levels around us, movements people make while talking and the willingness of the people around us to accommodate and support our needs. For all of us, we have various things that compound our ability to comprehend speech, and we all also have different skill levels and coping strategies.
For me in particular, it’s people who don’t ensure they have my full attention, that move around or gesture, or don’t look directly at me which impedes lipreading, or forget that I might need better lighting, less noise, or better timing, I.e not in the middle of cooking or changing a diaper or other activity that requires my focus. I became strong very early in many of my coping skills which allowed me to do well in a mainstream school. Then ten years ago, I started having some problems on the phone, and then face to face in conversations.
Now, with the cochlear implant, I am learning to listen. I am also learning to not rely on guesswork, logic, and other skills to fill in the missing words. Speech comprehension is developing a whole new meaning for me with the auditory verbal therapy.
I do speak up when I don’t understand something, and ask for repetition and explain why I missed something that they need to fix. It is tiresome and frustrating to have to do it so much with loved ones. My children are learning, and it gets better every day. My family, sometimes they forget, because we are not living together any more so some habits are rusty. With strangers, its a necessity to explain, and teach them how to accommodate my needs. It isn’t hard, and it is really very simple. If one thinks about it, even hearing people require the same things, do the same things, but they don’t realize it.
Think about the ways you have conversations and follow them. When conversing , be actively aware of what skills you use to be successful. You might surprise yourself and find that you are using many of the skills that Deaf people use on a daily basis. Try having a conversation or spend the day wearing industrial strength ear plugs. Think about being in a bar or at a party where the music and chatter is so loud, you can’t even think. Spending the day trying to comprehend one person, or multiple persons in our daily tasks or at work would be challenging and tiring if we were surrounded by noise all the time. The absence of sound makes it harder.
I challenge you, the hearing person to try to spend some time in my shoes, and let me know how it goes 🙂