5 Things Every Social Worker Should Understand About Deafness

Social workers need to be understanding about the struggles that people with disabilities face. By being sensitive to the challenges they face, social workers will have better interactions with their clients with disabilities. Deafness is one of the most misunderstood disabilities. Deaf people and those with hearing loss are forced to learn to live with frustration because those with hearing often fail to understand the challenges they face. To help their deaf clients, social workers should understand the following five things about deafness.

1. You Cannot Understand the Loneliness

While everyone feels lonely sometimes, it is impossible for person with full hearing to understand the loneliness that deafness can bring with it. Being unable to fully participate in conversations that others have is very frustrating for the deaf. Even those who can read lips cannot catch everything that is being said, especially during group conversations. It is always considerate for those with hearing to fill the deaf person in on parts of a conversation they may have missed.

2. You Don’t Have to Shout

When someone is deaf or hearing impaired, shouting does not help things. In fact, yelling distorts your voice and makes it harder to understand for people reading lips or for those using hearing aids. The best practice when you are speaking with people who are hearing impaired is to speak in a clear, firm voice. Look directly at them so they can read your lips. Slow down. Speaking in a smooth, slow manner is the best way to ensure that your communication is effective.

3. Deaf People Are Not Rude

People who suffer from hearing loss are often thought to be rude, especially by those who don’t know them. Deaf people often seem to be ignoring people, and this leads to perfect strangers getting angry with them because they think they are being rude. Before you get angry with clients for ignoring you, make sure that they do not suffer from hearing impairment first. You need to be patient with people who are deaf or hearing impaired because they may not always respond to you right away.

4. Social Workers Need to Understand Deaf Culture

While it is important for social workers to understand the challenges that deaf people face, it is also important that they take the time to learn about Deaf culture. If social workers do not know much about ASL or Deaf culture, they need to learn about it so that they better understand their deaf clients. Knowing what is important to their clients is a social worker’s job, and learning about deaf culture is a big part of it.

5. They Don’t Need to Be Fixed

Another part of understanding Deaf culture is understanding that its members do not see hearing loss as a disability. They think of deafness simply as a way of being. Because they do not view it as a disability, they may be apt to take offense if you suggest that they pursue a medical course to fix it like getting hearing aids or cochlear implants. They are happy with who they are, and they do not need you to try to change them.

The key to helping your deaf clients is understanding them. If you understand the five points above, you will be well equipped to positively interact with your clients who are deaf or hearing impaired. Make sure that you always practice patience with your deaf clients. You need to understand the challenges they face navigating a world built for the hearing. Your job is to help them as best you can with compassion and understanding.

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