Here are some guidelines and background information that can be kept in mind by hearing impaired or deaf persons, as well as health professionals at primary healthcare facilities, in times of screening, testing and possible hospitalization:
- Hearing Impaired or deaf persons refers to persons with varying degrees of hearing loss not using SA Sign Language as a primary medium of communication, but who rather use various means of communication and assistive hearing technologies. These include speech, speech- or lip-reading, hearing aid systems, cochlear implants, Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) and applicable assistive listening devices, or a combination thereof.
- The assistive devices used may not be sufficient for the persons to hear clearly and if someone is wearing a face mask, standing behind a screen and at a distance of 1 metre, it is very difficult for the hearing impaired or deaf person to hear and communicate effectively.
- The ideal situation would be to use a plastic screen in front of your face instead of a mask or, if possible, a face mask with a transparent plastic window in front of your lips so the persons can lip-read.
It is important that the hearing impaired or deaf person be allowed to take someone into the appointment with them to facilitate communication. If this is not possible, the following needs to be noted –
- Take the person to a quieter area where there is little or no background noise
- Do not turn your head away when speaking but look directly at the person and speak loudly, slowly and clearly (do not shout as that distorts the sound)
- Make sure you have a paper and pen handy so you can right down any instructions.
In terms of making the physical environment accessible please consider the following-
- Good lighting is a basic need, so make sure the area is well lit
- The area must be quiet with controlled ambient noise
- Over the counter loops systems would be a good option
- All areas must have good signage
Barriers exists due to the lack of understanding of the diversity of persons with hearing loss, as most people think that all persons with hearing loss use a signed language. You are welcome to contact Michele at email@example.com for more information or if you should need training and sensitisation of staff, colleagues or friends. Training can take place online or face-to-face.
Fanie du Toit