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February 8, 2004

For the deaf

From: Sherman Denison Herald Democrat - Sherman/Denison,TX,USA - Feb 8, 2004



People with full hearing abilities may not understand the challenges of the hearing disabled. In like manner, the hearing disabled find it difficult communicating their needs to allow them to participate in family and other activities. Even light conversation can be a problem for the hard of hearing.

Representatives of the Deaf Action Center of Dallas came to Sherman Thursday to share information with the hard of hearing about federal programs and technology available to help.

Using an FM listening system and CART services (real time captioning), Ester Kelly, Coordinator of the Hard-of-Hearing Program for the DAC, shared with the hearing loss support group at the Texoma Council of Governments Thursday morning her thoughts on how to cope in a hearing world.

One of the most important things to do is to let people know what you need. She said hearing disabled people are often afraid of appearing dumb so they go along with the conversation agreeing with it when they don't really understand what's been said. Hearing people want to help, she said. Most will not mind making a few concessions to help someone's ability to hear and understand what's going on around them.

When communicating with a hard-of-hearing person, a hearing person should get the individual's attention before speaking; keep obstacles form in front of your face; avoid having objects in the mouth such as gum, cigarettes or food; speak clearly and at a moderate pace; use facial expressions and gestures; give clues when changing the subject; rephrase the statement when not understood; don't shout; avoid noisy background situations; be patient, positive and relaxed; talk to a hard-of-hearing person and not about him; when in doubt, ask the hard-of-hearing person for suggestions to improve communication.

Kelly shared personal stories and hte stories of others during the time with the microphone and she stressed how important it is to learn about the technology available to assist with hearing disabilities.

"I hope you all will feel better about yourselves after this," Kelly said. "Don't be ashamed to ask if you heard correctly what someone said. Say 'This is what I heard, is that what you said?'"

Kelly lost her hearing around age 30 and attributes that to her ability to speak clearly. She said she also has a Cochlear Implant and took off the outer parts to show to the group as she explained in detail how the implant works. She said that insurance, Medicare and Medicaid will not pay for hearing aids but all of those will pay to have the implant put in if the hearing loss is at least 70 decibels.

Jan Bishop of Van Alstyne was invited to share a recent experience in speaking up for herself. She told of attending city council meetings and having trouble understanding what was said during the meetings. She pointed out to the Council that it is required to provide adequate hearing devices so everyone can participate and keep up with the issues. It was Bishop's persistence that found results with the city council of her city and served as encouragement for the rest in the group to be able to speak up.

At the oposite end of the second floor of the TCOG building, another hard-of-hearing group was meeting. This was a group of individuals who have applied for work and they were receiving instructions about federally sponsored work programs available to the hard-of-hearing.

Hamid Hajebian, a licensed mental health counselor with the DAC, facilitated the program while a hearing member of the agency interpreted for any who could not understand sign language. He talked about Extended Period of Eligibility, Qualified Medicaid Benefits, Ticket To Work and much more.

The Hearing Loss Support Group is open to all interested individuals. It will meet at 9:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month.

The Deaf Action Center is a non-profit organizaion trying to do more outreach in the Texoma area. Operating more than 27 years, the agency now has 16 staff members. Executive Driector of the DA Angela Fisher said there are one-half million people in the North Texas area with hearing disabilities. "They can't access services so we are trying to bring some of our programs to them," Fisher said. They are planning to bring programs to the Sherman area at least once monthly.

For information about the Deaf Action Center or the hearing-loss support group or for assistance with a disability, call Nancy Truett at TCOG (903) 813-3559.

© 2994 Herald Democrat