People usually think hearing disability is “impossibility to hear sounds”, but this is incorrect. Most people with hearing disability recognize sounds, but it is difficult or impossible to understand them. And the most important sounds are human sounds, i.e. words. So, in many cases “deafness” or “being hard of hearing” equals to “impossibility to understand what people are saying”.

In this short movie, we tried to make this concept easy for the hearing people.
Francesca, a deaf girl, is approached by Irina and Flora. Francesca cannot understand them, and she’s desperate. This mechanism of “not understanding” is simulated by Irina (speaking in Serbian) and Flora (speaking in Dutch).This is useful as anattempt to make clear what hearing loss is for hard of hearing people. It is not necessarily a shortcoming in hearing sounds, but in distinguishing sounds and understanding speech.
Although lip-reading, hearing aids or the cochlear implant improve sound recognition, it still stays very poor compared to healthy ear.

What else can be done to improve this situation? Francesca should explain her problem to the other girls, you say? Try to see it from her point of view: would you really have the energy to explain your hearing to everyone you meet? Certainly not, so hard of hearing people can, unfortunately, start to pretend they understand. And in many situations explaining anything is just not readily possible, as seen in next example:

Hopeless situation could be alleviated by by both technical and human means.

Technical support

Francesca would benefit immensely from FM system (assistive listening device), sign laguage interpreter (only in case if she understands sign alnguage), or, the best possibility, text to speech service.

Human support

The rejection of Francesca’s needs by classmates may seem quite extreme, but such things happen in everyday life. Also, while we don’t see the teacher, it is likely he is standing by face away from students, making lipreading impossible. Or it can be prevented by poor lighting, or light shining from behind speaker. Don’t let me even start about surrounding noise level.  All these things can usually be solved without big time or financial issues. One just has to consult hearing disabled person on his/her needs in advance.

As you can see in last video, even if only one thing is improved, the  benefit is considerable.

In practice, we should strive to combine as many approaches to help disabled people, as is possible.  Peer support / cooperation plays a good role in study, a little cooperation/support means a lot for your classmates – or in any area of your life.

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Films by Andrea Pietrini. Text by Juraj Variny and Andrea Pietrini.