Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation Counselors' Knowledge of Hearing Loss and Assistive Technology. (Knowledge of Hearing Loss)

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation Counselors' Knowledge of Hearing Loss and Assistive Technology. (Knowledge of Hearing Loss)

Article excerpt

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) mandates the provision of equal opportunities to people with disabilities in all aspects of life, including employment. One of the most prevalent disabilities in the United States is hearing loss (Cavendish, 1998). Recent statistics indicate that approximately 28 million people in the United States have some degree of hearing loss (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 1996). Of these 28 million people, 26.8 million (approximately 96%) individuals are hard of hearing (1) and 840,000 (approximately 3%) are late-deafened2. The remaining 280,000 (1%) are prelingually deaf or have lost their hearing before the age of 18 (National Center for Health Statistics, 1994). The high incidence of acquired hearing loss is related in part to noise exposure occurring in many work settings. Noise-induced hearing loss is the second most reported occupational illness or injury (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001).

Despite the ADA's mandate for equal opportunity and the prevalence of hearing loss, many people who are deaf or hard of hearing still find their opportunities limited. A major obstacle to accommodation is a lack of knowledge about how to create ideal communication settings for people with a hearing loss. As a result, individuals who are hard of hearing or late-deafened find many settings lacking accommodations that would provide them equal access, specifically through assistive technology and the use of strategies that facilitate communication with hearing individuals. When encountered in a place of employment, such barriers may have a negative effect on career opportunities of people with a hearing loss.

Rehabilitation counselors can play a vital role in promoting equal opportunities for people with a hearing loss, including those who are hard of hearing or late-deafened. Research indicates that rehabilitation specifically relating to hearing loss has significant supportive effects (Backenroth & Ahlner, 1997). Much literature on the rehabilitation of people with hearing loss, however, focuses on issues facing deaf people who use sign language, who are members of the Deaf community, and who are disadvantaged vis-a-vis hearing people in their use of English (e.g., Belknap, Korwin & Long, 1995; McCann, 1993; Wyatt & White, 1993). More limited is the literature on issues that are relevant to the rehabilitation needs of people who are hard of hearing and late-deafened.

People who are Hard of Hearing or Late-Deafened

The main differences between people who are hard of hearing or late-deafened and those who are deaf from birth or infancy are their primary form of communication and the extent to which they use their residual hearing. Many people who are prelingually deaf (i.e., profoundly deaf before developing oral language) use sign language for communication. In contrast, people who are hard of hearing or late-deafened are more likely to communicate orally (Laszlo, 1995). With the use of hearing aids, assistive devices, or both, many individuals who are hard of hearing are able to use their residual hearing to develop speech and oral language skills and thus, function quite well in a hearing environment. Similarly, many people who are late-deafened had already developed oral language skills prior to acquiring a hearing loss, and did not experience oral communication difficulties until they lost their hearing. The reliance on oral communication separates people who are hard of hearing and late-deafened culturally from the majority of prelingually deaf people. People who are hard of hearing and late-deafened tend to live in the "hearing" world and maintain personal links to hearing individuals, whereas most prelingually deaf people are members of the Deaf community (Seppa, 1997).

Hearing Loss Accommodation

Many people who are hard of hearing or who lose their hearing later in life have to significantly adjust their careers and professional goals because their hearing loss affects task performance, social participation and opportunities for career advancement (Hetu & Getty, 1993; Rutman, 1989). …

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