William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
National Deaf Awareness Week
September 18th – 24th is recognized as Deaf Awareness Week. During this week we raise awareness of individuals who are Deaf and hard of hearing.
Deaf v. deaf: One word. Two Cultures
People who are deaf identify with two very different cultures. The term deaf with a lower case “d” refers to individuals who use speech as their primary form of communication. In addition, those who identify themselves as deaf or hard or hearing frequently use hearing aids or other assistive listening devices.
In contrast, the term Deaf with an upper case “d” refers to a culture where it is typical for individuals to have total deafness or profound hearing loss. In addition, this culture embraces the use of American Sign Language (ASL) as a primary form of communication.
What is deafness or hard of hearing?
Deafness or hard of hearing is the inability or partial ability of a person to perceive sound. An individual may be born with hearing loss or acquire it during their lifetime. Some possible causes of acquired hearing loss include:
- Repeated noise exposure,
- Ototoxic medications,
- Head trauma, and
- Hearing loss due to aging
Types of Hearing Loss
There are two types of hearing loss that may be diagnosed. Conductive hearing loss is caused by an inefficient transmission of sound from the outer ear to the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or eighth nerve, which is responsible for carrying sound information.
The different degrees of hearing loss are mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe, and profound. The ability of a person to communicate will depend on the severity and type of hearing loss. Both sensorineural and conductive hearing losses may be treated with hearing aids but it is important to consult an audiologist to see if amplification is a possible treatment.
Veterans and Hearing Loss
According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs there is estimated to be more than 59,000 military members with service related hearing loss from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Veterans with a hearing assessment that suggests hearing loss may be eligible to receive hearing aids. Veterans that are having difficulty communicating and suspect that they may have some hearing loss should obtain a hearing test.
Symptoms of Undiagnosed Hearing Loss
Some common reports of people with an undiagnosed hearing loss include: aversion to social events and conversation, increasing the volume of audio signals (television, radio, etc.), and a significant other reporting that they must repeat themselves often.
It is also important for people with a diagnosed and undiagnosed hearing loss to practice good communication skills that include: capturing the attention of conversation partners before communicating, reducing background noise that may affect ability to hear, and using a clear speaking voice. Practicing good communications skills will greatly increase the ease of conversation and socializing.