Hearing loss ranks as the fourth leading cause of disability globally- yet, statistics reveal that, on average, approximately 80 percent of people fail to get a proper diagnosis and treatment for it. According to the World Federation of the Deaf, almost 700 million people are deaf worldwide, who often wrestle with an array of challenges, including communication barriers, limited educational and career prospects, societal stigma, and emotional and psychological distress.
Last week, it was the International Day of Sign Languages - a commemoration that marks why the world needs to come together to support the deaf community to forge a more inclusive future for our upcoming generations. This day not only ‘acknowledges and endorses the use of sign language to empower aurally challenged” but also serves as a stark reminder that we must celebrate differences and embrace diversity, so every individual feels valued and included, regardless of their limitations and disabilities.
At ImamConnect, we believe that recognizing sign language is the first step towards accepting the linguistic distinctiveness and cultural diversity of the deaf community. It will not only ensure that their voices are heard, and rights are upheld without any discrimination, but will also break down societal and institutional barriers rooted in inequitable accessibility and lack of opportunities.
Understanding Hearing Loss- Causes, Treatment, and Care
Hearing loss can result from various external factors and causes. Some common reasons include age-related difficulties, exposure to loud noises, earwax blockage, autoimmune diseases, ear infections, antibiotics and medications, genetic mutations, head trauma, and certain types of tumours and heath conditions.
Research shows that “two to three out of every 1000 children in the US” struggle with hearing loss either in one or both ears. These statistics underline that hearing loss is not limited to the elderly alone, but may also affect children- hindering their communication skills and potential to bloom in academic and social settings.
Timely medical intervention and diagnosis are crucial in managing hearing loss's severity in both children and adults. Some common treatments can include hearing aids, ear wax removal, cochlear implants, and surgical interventions. However, if left untreated, it can get worse over time, adversely affecting the overall quality of life.
Fundamentals of Sign Language
Britannica Encyclopaedia says sign language “is any means of communication through bodily movements, especially of the hands and arms, used when spoken communication is impossible or not desirable.” It is a combination of gestures, signals, and facial expressions used by hearing-impaired to share their ideas and opinions within professional and educational milieus, or while interacting and socializing with their loved ones.
Interestingly, over 300 distinct versions of sign language exist in different parts of the world, which evolved and developed organically over time. Also, hearing-impaired have their own name signs that they use to refer to themselves. Instead of using signs and gestures to symbolize letters of their name, they use a sign as a nickname, linked to their personality traits, profession, and even hobbies.
How to Break Down Barriers as Parents
As parents of aurally challenged, you may seldom encounter issues communicating with them. However, be mindful that every child is unique, and there is no one tailored approach to break down communication barriers, so they can open up about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
The first tip is to invest time and energy to familiarize your children with sign language from an early age. This will allow them to better understand their experiences, share their emotions and feelings, and connect and engage with people around them.
Initially, you can start with some basic signs such as thank you, play, sleep, please, and more, and then move to more complex ones such as family, happy, sad, colours, and school. When signing to them, maintain eye contact and pay full attention to their non-verbal cues and gestures. Try to incorporate an array of visual cues and aids to introduce novel concepts, ensuring maximum retention and reinforcement.
When introduced to new settings or concepts, always encourage them to ask questions, making them comfortable to reach out to you when they require clear answers to their queries. The key is to listen to them empathetically, so they feel heard, valued, and understood. To convey a longer sentence or a difficult concept, try to break it down into smaller proportions- giving each part ample time to be absorbed and understood. You can also employ technological resources to support their learning needs.
Always celebrate your child’s academic and co-curricular achievements and milestones to boost their confidence and self-esteem. Motivate them to work hard, dream big, and step out of their comfort zone to accomplish their goals in life. As parents, you need to reiterate to your child that they are perfectly normal and they must never allow their hearing impairment to handicap their abilities and competence.
Pay special focus on socialization as it is imperative to enhance your child’s communication skills, boost confidence, reduce emotional and mental distress, and foster cultural awareness and empathy. Encourage them to connect with other community members and partake in volunteer activities, ensuring that they understand their rights and have access to relevant information and resources.
Also, don’t be shy to seek professional help. If you encounter communication difficulties, contact a professional specializing in sign language, speech therapy, parent-child counselling, and special needs. At ImamConnect, we have a team of dedicated Parent-Child Counsellors and Special Needs Coaches who assist parents in not only coping and managing behavioural issues in children but also identifying the right parenting strategies to meet their unique academic, social and emotional needs.
Imam Connect- Empowering the Deaf Community
ImamConnect firmly believes that hearing loss is just a physical debility, and must not be employed as a parameter to gauge an individual’s skillset, competence, and abilities. It is crucial to acknowledge that everyone, irrespective of their hearing impairment or any other type or form of disability, deserves equal stature, respect, and ample opportunities to pursue their aspirations, thrive and shine.
Our dedicated Counsellors and Therapists are here to assist your child in overcoming communication challenges, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and nurturing essential life skills- supporting them to thrive, academically, emotionally, and socially. To get started, book a session now and empower your child to rise above their challenges and debilities, fearlessly and confidently.