How we can give support to late-deafened people in our communities

Late deafness refers to hearing loss that has occurred after a person has attained full development of speech and language. People of the late-deafened community are identified as members of the hearing society either through schools or social situations prior to the onset of pathological hearing loss.

The Indian Journal of Otology puts it that approximately 63 million people in India are currently living with significant hearing impairment. Over 5 million of that number are children while the majority are those in old age with age-related hearing loss.

Much as there is a significant percentage of Indians living with hearing loss, they are often left to the margins as forgotten members of society. It was never more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic when the deaf population saw challenges in healthcare information access and barriers to communication due to mandatory facemask wearing and social distancing.

Coming off the heels of the pandemic, it is of greatest importance for us, in a multi-faceted approach, to show support for this often neglected group in our society.

Moral Support

A good place to start is by first confronting our biases about the deaf community. This would essentially require us to put ourselves in their shoes. The cultural stigma around the topic of deafness in our society has prevented the subset of people living with this condition from properly being integrated into society.

There is a widespread rejection by institutions, as well as by people, of members of this minority group and it shows in the level of access they are given. In a country as linguistically diverse as India, there is still no officially recognized sign language. This non-recognition poses a barrier towards attaining a formal education or getting a job for members of the deaf community. But not only that, it cuts across all spheres of existence; from healthcare access to legal access to information access on a day-to-day basis. This continuous systemic non-recognition makes life altogether difficult to fully immerse in and enjoy.

Studies have shown a higher rate of depression and anxiety among the deafened population in comparison to the general population. Rates of suicidality are increased as well. The factors discussed above are all contributory.

We can re-sensitize ourselves to these issues and empathize with them, thus making life fractionally better in the little ways we can where our lives intersect. We can do this in practice by making considerations for the deaf in our community through reducing noise pollution which exacerbates their condition.

Technical Support

There is an ever present need for the late deafened community to be provided with assistive technology. This broad range of technology, which includes both hardware and software, allows for communication between the deaf and hearing. Such technology includes hearing aids, cochlear implants, loop systems, and visual alert systems to name a few.

Some may choose to forego such technical support, as a means of resistance or perhaps because they have not come to terms with their diagnosis. As the case may be, it is all the same necessary that those who are in need of these technologies are able to access them in our schools and working facilities.

Career Support & Opportunities

There are a plethora of career opportunities for the late-deafened as healthcare personnel, medical laboratory sciences, law professionals, sign language interpreters and so much more.

Ideally, members of the late-deafened community should be empowered to chart whatever career course they choose, but with limited access to proper education in their primary language of communication, the Indian Sign Language, the list of possibilities for them is shortened.

Non-Governmental Organizations are just some of the institutions working to help the late-deafened community and the wider community of people with disability in India become independent and self-sufficient adults.

The bottleneck in which late-deafness presents in the life of an individual can be overcome if we as society collectively work towards inclusivity.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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