deafscotland is the lead organisation for deaf issues in Scotland.
We aim to ensure that deaf people in Scotland can access services and information across all sectors of society, from their local communities to what comes from government departments. We represent organisations working with and on behalf of people from across the full spectrum of deafness.
Understanding the four pillars of deafness
We use the term the “four pillars of deafness” to describe Deaf, Deafblind, Deafened and Hard of Hearing as people with different levels of deafness have different barriers to overcome and have different language and communication support needs.
Deaf Sign Language Users
Deaf Sign Language users are people whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language (BSL), or another Sign Language if they grew up in another country. These people have been born deaf or have become deaf early in life. People with this level of deafness are described as being profoundly deaf. Deaf BSL users usually see themselves as part of a linguistic/cultural minority known as the Deaf Community.
Imagine you have just landed in a foreign country. You do not speak the language, and nobody in that country speaks English. Imagine the impact that has on you. Would you become fearful? Would you be able to act with the same independence you have at home? Would you become isolated?
People who are Deafblind
Deafblindness is sometimes called dual sensory impairment. This is because deafblind people will have both some hearing loss and some sight loss. A person can be born deafblind (called congenital deafblindness) or lose both their hearing and sight in later life. It is important to remember that many deafblind people may not be totally deaf nor totally blind.
Understanding life for a deafblind person is best reached through simulating their experiences. The use of SimSpecs to mimic various visual impairments and ear defenders to simulate hearing loss or deafness can be very effective in understanding how deafblind people communicate.
People who are Deafened
People who were born able to hear and become severely deaf after learning to speak are often described as Deafened or as having an acquired profound hearing loss (APHL). This hearing loss may be due to a disease or illness or there may not be an identified reason for the loss of the person’s hearing. Deafened people may rely on lipreading to follow a conversation or need to have things written down for them. If arranging a meeting or appointment with a person who is Deafened, it is important to find out what support they need, for example, an Electronic Notetaker or a Lip Speaker.
You’re speaking to someone, taking in every word they are saying but then they turn the opposite way and you can no longer hear anything they are saying. Hearing people may experience this in loud environments or windy conditions, but imagine that every conversation you have is like this. People who lose their hearing experience an element of grief and it may take a person some time to realise the extent of their hearing loss.
People who are Hard of Hearing
Hard of Hearing is a term used to describe people with a mild to moderate hearing loss. People who are Hard of Hearing will, in general, lose their hearing gradually and the majority of Hard of Hearing people do so later in their lives. A person with a mild hearing loss might wear a hearing aid and have some difficulty in following conversations in noisy situations. A person with a moderate hearing loss might have one or two hearing aids and will have difficulty following normal speech without the aid.
You are at a comedy show, engrossed in the comedian’s stories, but the microphone keeps cutting out and occasional words are being dropped. The people in the front row are laughing heartily, but you have missed the joke. This continues throughout the performance. How frustrated do you become?