Hearing gives people the opportunity to recognise voices and alerts, imitate sounds, develop social skills and orientate in their surroundings. The ability to hear is also an important factor in the learning process. Learning consists of many steps including:
- Gathering information
- Accurately processing that information
- Comparing this information to previously held knowledge
- Discarding irrelevant information
- Organising the information
- Storing the information
- Accessing this information at a later time
- Demonstrating by performance that the information was understood
Most of us take this complex process for granted. But when one or more of these processes is absent, learning is interrupted. This is what happens to people with learning disabilities. Learning tests among hearing impaired people have shown that there is a connection between hearing loss and learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities in people with auditory processing disorders are typically diagnosed through a series of tests given by a qualified audiologist. Experts suggest that hearing impaired people who receive appropriate learning and other services can easily adjust to their hearing loss. Unfortunately, many individuals do not receive the necessary assistance early, before the impact becomes too serious.
Hearing loss is an invisible disability in which the person appears to be much like everyone else until another person attempts to communicate with him or her. Hearing loss isolates hard of hearing people from others because of the sociability obstacles that follow loss of hearing. Therefore, hearing loss is a disorder of communication. The hearing person usually becomes uncomfortable around the hearing impaired person because of the communication gap. They feel incompetent to get their point of access and may avoid the situation, and thereby the person, altogether. This is a classic scenario illustrating how hearing loss can produce a breakdown in communication and isolation for the hard of hearing person.
Hearing impaired people who avoid the use of hearing aids experience feelings such as sadness, depression and anxiety. Often, they become socially inactive and report higher rates of emotional insecurity. Many hearing impaired people stop attending family gatherings and social events because it is difficult for them to hear and understand conversations.
Hard of hearing people can encounter great challenges in developing the language and literacy skills they need to become productive in the workplace and gain self-confidence. It may be difficult for these individuals to get along with co-workers, understand tasks at work and maintain relationships. Thereby, it is very important to help hearing impaired people with learning disabilities to be successful in the workplace.
Developing partnerships with hearing impaired workers is needed to be proactive in creating advanced tools and strategies. There is a need for educational programmes for employees and employers who interact with people with hearing loss to increase their knowledge and use of services. There is also an urgent need for audiologists and hard of hearing people to partner to develop education and intervention services specific to the needs of the hearing impaired in the workplace. These services are needed to support workers and to insure they can perform optimally and continue to be productive at work.