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One in six Australians experience some form of hearing impairment. Hearing Awareness Week, which is held in the last week of August, provides an opportunity to focus on issues for people who are hearing impaired, deaf or have a chronic ear disorder. 

For those of us with a hearing impairment, Hearing Awareness Week is an opportunity to connect with others, share information and raise awareness. For those of you who meet people with hearing impairment in your life, and you all do, this is your week too. An opportunity to learn more about hearing and become more aware of effective communication methods and tactics when engaging with people with hearing impairment.

Despite the number of Australians who experience some form of hearing impairment, this past month provided Council members a stark reminder of just how few buildings and meeting environments in the Sydney CBD are truly accessible for people with disability. Building after building, meeting room after meeting room have been deemed unsuitable as the Council attempted to locate a new meeting place that was truly accessible to people with a range of disability.

Unfortunately, hearing loops that have limited numbers of microphones don’t work or high levels of electrical interference are the norm. For those fortunate enough to work in a space where a hearing loop is installed, I encourage you to have that loop checked and ensure it is in working order for the day when the loop is required.

Sensory loss is a disability as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities and ratified by Australia in 2008. As the invisible disability, deafness is often overlooked despite its impact on people’s ability to communicate effectively and integrate fully into society. People with hearing impairment are more likely than their hearing peers to be unemployed, underemployed or retire early. They are also more likely to suffer social isolation and exclusion from everyday activities.

The next time you communicate with someone you know or suspect has a hearing impairment, make a conscious effort to ensure the person is included in the communications. The presence of a hearing aid does not mean the person can hear normally, so if a word is not understood, try using a different word or phrase. Maintain eye contact and allow the person to see your face clearly so they can lip read if they are able. Ensure you don’t shout but speak slowly and clearly, without exaggerating. Relax and enjoy your improved communications, your efforts will be appreciated!

A list of the activities taking place in Hearing Awareness Week can be found at:www.hearingawarenessweek.org.au

For more information, do yourself a favour and read Gael Hannah’s article,‘The Gift That Just Keeps On Giving’ or ‘The Shocking Truths About Hearing Loss:

http://hearinghealthmatters.org/betterhearingconsumer/2013/the-shocking-truths-about-hearing-loss/

By Michele Nealon

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