It takes a village – or at least a lot of people – to make sure the growing population of hearing impaired Americans have access to better hearing in all venues. It is no wonder that a hearing disability is unfashionable when we are either embarrassed to acknowledge our hearing loss or afraid to wear a hearing device that others will notice and confirm that we are not perfect. When did eyeglasses become fashionable, even without prescription lenses, and hearing devices are not?
This perception seems to be changing, possibly because the Baby Boomers are not afraid to embrace the newer technologies and hearing aid manufacturers are making the hearing aids more “stylish”. The Boomers want to hear and are not willing to accept the fact that they cannot hear without a fight!
Because of our unwillingness to speak up when we cannot hear in venues, ADA compliance with hearing access has been lacking. This has resulted in those with hearing impairments either isolating themselves and not venturing out to public venues or not being able to fully hear and understand what is being said. (This can be detrimental in certain environments such as pharmacies, bank windows or drive-ups, information desks, etc). Not to mention privacy issues when the pharmacist or bank teller has to raise his/her voice in order for the person with hearing loss to understand. It isn’t always the volume that is the problem for the hearing impaired, but understanding and clarity of what is being said.
What can we do? SPEAK UP! If you cannot hear in any venue, it is your responsibility to tell the management that you could not hear. Hearing loops typically are a simple and effective way for public and private venues to ensure access for the hearing impaired while conforming to ADA quidelines. The cost of a hearing loop installation in many cases is about the same as a good set of hearing instruments and they serve an unlimited number of people! A hearing loop may not always be the best solution, but all public venues must make accommodations for the hearing impaired. If we don’t speak up, nothing will be accomplished. It is the old “squeaky wheel gets the grease”.
So don’t be afraid to “squeak” a little or a lot and together we can hear better – live better!