Technology has improved the sizing of hearing aids, but people still refuse to get them and if they do, they often abandon them. But hearing aids don’t solve all hearing issues. Difficulty hearing causes people to isolate. So how can we create cities for people with hearing loss?
Janice Lintz’s article reminds us how many people live with hearing loss. She argues that cities need to update their perceptions of people with hearing loss and to think beyond just wheelchair access. She also makes a good point about the assumed access knowledge of people with disability.
We should not assume that a person with a particular disability understands all disabilities. And, they are unlikely to be an expert on that disability. Similarly, a person with a cochlear implant is not an expert on all hearing devices. Consequently, we should refer to experts as well as people with lived experience.
Lintz briefly explains the different types of hearing systems for the built environment. Hearing aid users prefer the induction loop system that transmits directly to their hearing aids. FM systems that require them to wear a receiver around their neck are stigmatising. It has to be borrowed from the venue and batteries are not always charged.
Hearing loss is common
AUSLAN interpreters are a solution for far fewer people with hearing loss, but must be considered in access solutions. Around 6500 people use AUSLAN in Australia. The total number of people with hearing loss is 3.6 million. That makes one in six people. DeafSpace architecture shows how the design of the environment can support people who use AUSLAN or have hearing loss.
Captioning and transcripts are another important access strategy and are usable by everyone who can read. This makes it a universal design strategy.
Newer mobile phones can link directly to some types of hearing aids via Bluetooth. This should encourage more people to wear their aids.
Editor’s comment: White wireless earbuds don’t suffer the same stigma as hearing aids. But they both stick in your ears. Glasses have turned into a fashion statement, but not hearing aids despite being up to ten times the cost.