It is well known that greater Rochester has the largest percentage of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in any American city. Many perceive the two conditions as being the same. These are two different groups, each with distinct accessibility and communication needs. Most deaf people communicate using sign language; those with hearing loss communicate by voice. Due to the difference in method of communication, there is little interaction between the two groups.
ASL, used by people who are deaf, is a visually perceived, gesture-based language differing from spoken English. Hearing loss, on the other hand, is a problem requiring amplification and clarity of sound through the use of hearing aids and assistive listening devices.
To address hearing loss, various technologies are used. The Rochester Riverside Convention Center offers an FM system to help those who cannot discern the words coming from the public address system. Kodak Hall uses an infrared system. In both cases, the user must ask to use the system, if they know it’s available.
Many churches and other gathering places use hearing-inductive loops that connect with hearing aid telecoils. Recently, Wegmans (a supermarket chain) installed hearing loops.
As loud as movies are, many people with hearing loss have trouble understanding the words, so captioning helps, but the public may find open captioning distracting. Some theaters are addressing this problem. Regal Cinemas, has developed and installed closed-caption glasses.(see image)
Captioned phones are also available. Assistive devices for personal use are becoming more sophisticated as new technologies are introduced.
It’s estimated 30 million Americans have hearing loss. Most are older, but many are young. The Hearing Loss Association of American was founded in 1979 to help with education, support and advocacy. In addition to the all-volunteer local Rochester Chapter, there are 175 chapters nationwide.
Hearing is one of the major human senses, vital to interacting with the world around us, to our health and vitality, to our ability to function with family, at work and socially … a vibrant element of our quality of life. This is true of all people with deafness and hearing loss.
Source: USA TODAY, Dr. Elise dePapp, a retired physician, and Art Maurer, Frontier retiree, both have hearing loss and are members of HLAA-Rochester.
Image credit: Sony’s Entertainment Access Glasses, display captions for deaf and hard-of-hearing moviegoers.
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