If you are newly diagnosed, late-deafened, or born with hearing loss, having a support system is necessary to navigate a world that can be challenging to overcome. You may be tempted to try to live on your terms without seeking help. Hoping for the best and expecting things to fall into place often lead to disappointment. Having several services that understand your personal experience with hearing loss can be essential to help throughout your life.
Some services require cost, or the local government subsidizes others.
This article provides hearing loss-focused services typically available in the Western world, where government-funded programs have made many possible. If any of the services interest you, a little research may be needed to find services available near you.
Services for Connections
There is nothing like being with someone who can finish your sentence because they know exactly what you mean and understand your life experiences. Sometimes in life, we need support from peers who can talk openly about the specifics of our hearing loss to get advice, learn, or inspire us to show us what’s possible.
Associations & Non-Profit Organizations
National or local organizations and associations provide services to unite people with hearing loss. These services often arrange for social activities, learning opportunities, and a chance to interact with others like you. They may balance between activities for its members and advocacy work to ensure the greater society provides services for people with hearing loss.
Some are membership-based, and others are open to joining whenever they arrange for virtual or in-person interactive programs. Some administer funding to support hearing devices or accommodation expenses or provide funding for post-secondary education.
Community Meetups, Recreations, and Trade Shows
Some groups meet once a year, while others are monthly or weekly. These meetups allow people to meet others in person to visit or participate in local community events or entertainment venues.
Depending on the activities you like to participate in, you may find niche activity-specific gatherings to join others with similar interests or hobbies. It could be sports-related, fitness-related, or theatre productions. Also, trade shows allow you to explore deaf-related products, services, and entertainment specifically for you.
Many people with hearing loss will confess to not wanting to date people with hearing. They prefer the relationship to be aligned in lifestyle and values. If your friendship circle does not include people who are deaf or hard of hearing, you might choose to join a virtual service or an in-person meet-up to help find your partner.
Many children with hearing loss need more confidence that they can’t get from mainstream schools and programs. When they are the only ones, they may need the support of peers like them to provide a sense of belonging and validation of who they are and their differences. Camps offer a place for kids to participate and develop friendships with others they can like and trust.
As mentioned above, some day activities are available for specific interests, but what if you want to go away to some unfamiliar place? Many travel agencies arrange trips worldwide that allow you to connect with others with hearing loss.
The tailored experience and support provided by travel agencies and groups that understand your specific hearing challenges can make the travel more enjoyable and less stressful or time-consuming to deal with all the logistics you would naturally have while you are at home.
Services for Schooling
Children or young adults with hearing loss need the best footing regarding education. Proper education can help a child to understand the basic skills necessary to navigate life.
Many teachers complete training programs without knowing or understanding the specifics of teaching students with disabilities or hearing loss. Kids aren’t experts in instructing their teachers on how best to help them learn. Without the parents in the classroom, itinerant teachers offer counseling and support for teachers every second. They also support the students, especially if they are struggling with learning.
In some countries, the government provides services to allow students with disabilities to access assistive technologies like FM systems or other audio amplification devices to help kids with hearing loss hear instructions in the classroom. In some situations, they may also provide ASL interpretation for the students.
Advice for Parents
Parents new to the hearing loss community or experience may need guidance on the best route for their child. Counseling on what they need to do at home and preparing their child outside the home is available.
While most schools, from elementary to high school or secondary schools, provide support for students with hearing loss, post-secondary schooling services are different. Some post-secondary institutions offer deaf-focused learning environments. Others may provide the services to support the student on campus through a disability-support office.
Services for Hearing and Speech
Getting the diagnosis of hearing loss is just the start. Afterward, additional rehabilitation support may be needed to navigate your day-to-day.
Many people with hearing loss prefer to avoid the hassle of finding hearing devices that work. They like the option of having other means to communicate with others. ASL training offers a way to communicate without needing to hear or read in the native language.
As hearing aids don’t make you hear perfectly, you sometimes need other support. Lip reading training can help individuals with hearing loss fill in the auditory gap. Getting skilled with lip reading with a one-on-one coach or a classroom instructor can speed up the learning process necessary to master and develop lip-reading skills.
Some people with hearing loss develop a deaf accent. While they may not know, it is evident based on their interactions. Hearing your voice and being able to mimic how sounds are projected is difficult. Trained speech therapists can coach one-on-one how to use the mouth and the lungs to speak words clearly in the native language.
Services for Hearing Devices
There’s a time when you need to explore your hearing levels or buy hearing devices. In a regulated environment, you will need to approach services to assist with improving your hearing.
There are hospitals or clinics with audiologists or other hearing professionals, like hearing instrument specialists or hearing aid dispensers, who provide the service to test your hearing levels. Audiologists have more knowledge about the ear from higher education training to advise.
An Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist (ENT), a specific type of physician, may assist with medical intervention for more complicated medical issues.
Hearing Aid & Cochlear Implant or Bone-Conductor Fittings
Audiologists, hearing instrument specialists, and hearing aid dispensers will provide services to fit hearing devices for each individual. They can help advise and adjust the hearing devices until they work fine for the individual.
Sometimes, your audiologist is not nearby, or you are in another country, and your hearing aids or devices are not working as they should. Sometimes, your audiologist places a five-year complimentary repair service threshold, and after the five years are up, you cannot get any services to your hearing aids.
There are services for just repairing hearing aids. Some are drop-ins, and others require a process to mail your hearing aids to a location where hearing aid engineers can work on your hearing aids.
Some hearing aid clinics offer repair services to those who did not purchase hearing aids from them but need immediate support on hearing aid repairs.
Services for Communication
Whenever you are worried about being in an environment where you may not be able to hear clearly, or you can’t communicate orally, some services can help you. Some professional services like law firms and doctors can make service adjustments to assist your needs.
Some organizations provide ASL interpreting services to help oral speakers communicate with sign language communicators without barriers.
Video Relay Services
Sometimes, you want to call for general services like utilities or telephone or reach an oral speaker. Video relay services help you communicate with a remote person in ASL, who will relay the information to you and the caller you need to reach.
Emergency Call Services
Public services, like 911 or other help services, can be accessible for people with hearing loss. These are custom services designed for people with hearing loss to help them get the support they need.
Services for Work & Unemployment
Many people with hearing loss face difficulties finding and keeping work. There are services designed to help you with resources that can help you get meaningful work.
Many services help people with hearing loss find deaf-friendly employers, get their first job opportunities, prepare for the hiring process, or provide custom training that allows them to find work.
Employee Resource Groups and Career Support
Some professions may have specific groups who support each other with industry-specific knowledge, support, and guidance for professionals with hearing loss just like you.
Many large companies provide a small service for internal employees with hearing loss, either to meet with others who are deaf and hard of hearing or generally on-the-job support.
Job Loss and Unemployment
The emotional process of finding a job or keeping a job is tough, and some skilled professionals can help. Sometimes, counseling to support the unemployment process is needed, as well as advice on how to understand your situation or help keep your living situation.
If you are an entrepreneur looking for business support or funding, mainstream programs may not be accessible to tailor to your needs. Because of biases, you may find investors less likely to invest in your business. Some organizations or groups support entrepreneurs who are deaf with access to resources and connections to other deaf-owned businesses.
Mental Health, Wellness, and Addiction
When dealing with life situations compounded with hearing loss, it may be challenging to find a therapist who can empathize with your situation. You can get to the root of your issues without having to explain what it is like to have hearing loss to get your therapist up to speed. Some support services work specifically for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
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