I think it is important for us to educate ourselves about late-deafened adults and be sensitive to their great losses:
For many late deafened adults, they grow up hearing and functioning well. Once, they lose their hearing, they feel that they are cut off from their normal communication as well as their own identities. They go through their grief processing in different levels, and learn how to cope and adapt to this loss on an individual basis.
They also need to learn to be “deaf”. They, normally at the very beginning, are not willing to associate with Culturally Deaf people. They would rather be connected to people who are experiencing what they are going through.
Fortunately, there is an organization called ‘Hearing Loss Association of America’ (HLAA). Their mission is to support the Empowerment of Deafened People. They are able to share experiences of growing up hearing and becoming deaf adults and they also have similar communication issues. At the same time, they learn to confront and accept their deafness. They have various degrees of hearing loss. Some wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.
The forms of communications are visual, oral, aural, speech reading, live captioning (CART), closed captioning, sign language or American Sign Language. There are unique challenges for this population. I once taught a late-deafened lady how to use American Sign Language, but I had to sign everything really slowly. She is not a Culturally Deaf person. I also listened to her experience adjusting and managing her hearing loss.
I am sensitive and patient with those with hearing loss because I have a family member who lost some of her hearing when she was a teen. She went through many phases at the beginning. She had to wear hearing aids but always had her hair cover them; she did not want anyone to know about it. She functions pretty well in the hearing society, but she leans on lip reading or sits close to a person talking. It was a big struggle for her and there was no school counselor providing some support. She felt her whole life collapsed and did not know where to turn. To this day, I still do not know how she coped.
I, personally, did not have to cope with my hearing loss because I was born deaf. My parents were deaf so everything was pretty easy for me. When you see late-deafened adults, please try to be patient with them. They sometimes do not speak clearly because they cannot hear their own speech. You need to ask them to repeat nicely and sit close to this person. They will feel you show a lot of respect and acceptance.
By Doreen Solar, ECNV Deaf Peer Counselor