I had a horrible experience teaching my graduate-level aural rehabilitation class earlier this semester. One of my brilliant students, herself a young woman with hearing loss, came to me during office hours to discuss audiogram interpretation. We talked through the concepts, worked through an example together, and things clicked! Happy story, right? But then she said something that absolutely broke my heart…
This student had been identified with hearing loss as a toddler and gone through the last twenty years of her life completely in the dark about what was going on in her very own ears and brain. She was accomplished enough to make it to a master’s degree program and yet no professional she’d ever encountered over the previous two decades thought to explain her hearing loss to her? That is borderline criminal! (just kidding… kind of!)
Now, I don’t know those professionals, and I don’t want to completely throw them under the busy — maybe they did explain and she forgot, maybe they had an impossibly large caseload and were too busy, maybe they barely understood audiogram interpretation themselves (another problem for another article on another day!). But maybe they also thought it was “too complicated” for her or her parents to understand (English is not their first language), maybe they assumed she didn’t need to know all of the technicalities — just put these hearing aids on and you’ll be fine, maybe… Who knows?
All I know is my message to all of you reading today: Don’t be that professional. If a person has hearing loss, they deserve to know about their hearing loss. This can start with very young children knowing the appropriate names for the devices they use to slightly older children learning how to describe their degree and type of hearing loss, how to interpret their audiogram, and so on.
Deaf is not a bad word, and hearing loss should not be a secret. As family-centered professionals, we have an obligation not only to provide excellent services, but to explain the what, why, and how behind our recommendations.