Hearing loss ranges from mild to profound. One person may be able to hear everything but very high-pitched sounds while another may hear only the roar of a jet engine and another hears nothing. A hard of hearing person may have difficulty developing his or her speech depending on the degree of hearing loss and when it occurred. The range of hearing loss includes the person who has age-related mild hearing loss to the person who is congenitally (born) deaf.
"One in every ten (28 million) Americans has hearing loss." (Self Help for Hard of Hearing, 2006). Of these, the vast majority of Americans (95%) with hearing loss could be successfully treated with hearing aids. However, the number of these individuals who actually use a hearing aid is only 22% (6.35 million individuals). As of 2004, across all age groups, in the United States, approximately 1,000,000 people (0.38% of the population, or 3.8 per 1,000) over 5 years of age are "functionally deaf" (Gallaudet Research Institute (GRI)).
Hard of Hearing: Used to describe people who have usable residual hearing or who use hearing aids to amplify sounds.
Deaf: Used to describe people who have little or no usable residual hearing.
When assisting people who are deaf or hard of hearing,Remember These Basic Tips:
Assistive Listening Devices (ALD): The job of an ALD is to make the sound louder and give volume control to the individual. In general, ALD's block out most of the ambient noises that come from the audience and just amplify the sounds coming from the speaker/stage. Most systems require the patron to check out a receiver with an earpiece or a set of headphones; and the system should also include neck loops for people with T-coils and hearing aids. It is also important that the equipment be checked, maintained, and cleaned on a regular basis. Systems must be checked for battery effectiveness, earpiece cleanliness, availability of ear foam pads, and other factors that can disrupt the effective working of the ALD. There is a more complete explanation of ALD's following this section. Resources - ALD
Sign Interpreted Performances: Generally, interpreters translate from spoken English to American Sign Language. However, there are other forms of visual/manual communication that also may be used (i.e., Signed English, cued speech, etc.). Arrangements for the interpreter are made well in advance so that the interpreters are able to attend a museum tour or get a performance script well in advance to clarify details and rehearse the interpretation. Ideally, the interpreters are located in the same visual field as the performance/lecture, with subdued lighting on them at all times.
VSA Texas is always looking for people to join us in our goal of assisting arts organizations to achieve maximum accessibility.