An Introduction to the Hard of Hearing Population
Two of the populations that the North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing serves are Hard of Hearing and Late-Deafened. Often Late-Deafened individuals identify as being Hard of Hearing. People that are Hard of Hearing can have hearing loss that ranges from mild to profound. They may have had hearing loss their entire lives, lost their hearing gradually over time, lost their hearing overnight, or instantly. A Late-Deafened person is someone that loses their hearing (profound loss) after the development of speech, and this could have happened at any age.
Most people that identify as being Hard of Hearing or Late-Deafened use spoken language to communicate. Many Hard of Hearing individuals use hearing aids or cochlear implants in an effort to improve their perception of spoken language and environmental sounds. Some Late-Deafened individuals use cochlear implants to assist in understanding speech. While the use of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are not nearly as common for Hard of Hearing or Late-Deafened individuals, there are some individuals in this population that use these services for communication. Don’t be surprised if you see an individual that uses a cochlear implant to hear and rely on an ASL interpreter to fill in the gaps not heard through the implant. Both Hard of Hearing and Late-Deafened individuals tend to rely heavily on facial expressions and lip reading for conversational cues.
Many Hard of Hearing and Late-Deafened individuals use technology as a part of their daily lives to communicate. While hearing aids and cochlear implants are perhaps the most used types of technology by these populations, many rely on technology such as Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) captioning to understand what is being said in meetings, presentations, classes, or at medical appointments. These populations might also use an Android or iOS apps on their smart devices to display Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) captioning for one-on-one conversations or they might use Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) to connect their hearing aid to the television. These individuals might also use a captioned or amplified telephone to understand on the phone better or use a telecoil or Bluetooth technology in their hearing aid to hear better on the phone.