Can You Hear Me Now? – Part 1

Your church is aware, sensitive to the needs of others – and maybe even hip.  Right?  ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) access to the building, like with ramps?  Check.  Special place in the sanctuary for wheelchairs so they don’t block the aisles?  Check.  Physical and Visually Impaired access to all buildings or campus?  Check.  Ushers or “welcomers” stationed at the doors who are trained in assisting visitors and people with impairments to seats or their Bible study rooms?  Check (you do, right?).  Accommodations for those who are Hearing Impaired?  Mmm, maybe.

Your church may have invested quite a bit on enabling the Hearing Impaired (hereafter, referred to as HOH for “Hard of Hearing” and HA for “Hearing Aids”), but how often are those devices used whether they be special headphones or speakers on a wand?  Not often, I would guess.  If a person has a hearing aid or a set of hearing aids, putting speakers or anything over the receiver will just cause the HA’s to whistle in the listener’s ear.  Consequently, I’ve seen too many churches just get bigger speakers and turn up the volume!  Oh, no.  It’s not the volume as much as it’s the clarity of the sound and the dampening of the echoes in the room.  For the purpose of this blog, I will also include teachers and proclaimers as their presentation methods can be improved for the benefit of those who are HOH.  It is likely that these people who are speaking don’t even know they are making it difficult for the HOH to hear their golden thoughts.  My wife knows lots of jokes up until the punchline.  Then the speaker drops their voice – and persons who are HOH miss the wonderful point of the story.

Did you know that more than 11% of the people in the United States have a hearing loss that affects their everyday life?  Many of them are either not aware of their hearing loss or don’t want to admit they have a problem.  But I can tell you that family members certainly know.  That percentage is increasing as teens and young adults have music blasting in their ears, service veterans are returning (and have returned) with combat-related hearing problems and the overall population is getting older and living longer.  My wife’s parents have both passed on, but her mother lost her voice over the years trying to communicate with her HOH husband.  Nope, no hearing aids.  He had fought three years during World War 2 in Army Infantry with the First Armored Division fighting in North Africa, then going up Italy.  Perhaps he was exposed to loud sounds, heh?  As you yourself get older, you will encounter people with hearing problems more often.

Who is Hard of Hearing?  “Not me” may not be an acceptable answer to your loved ones or those with whom you work.  The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institute of Health (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss#:~:text=Approximately%20one%20in%20three%20people,than%2075%20have%20difficulty%20hearing.)  states that 1/3 people ages 65-74 have hearing loss and “nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.”  Surprisingly, 65% of persons with hearing loss are below retirement age.  So it is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed in churches and places of worship.  Sadly, there are places of worship that are willing to let this population group go – this group that was key in building the church in the first place – in the interest of reaching out to youth and younger adults.

I think I will stop there for now.  In the next blog, I will offer a ten-question evaluation to determine if you or someone you are close to may be Hard of Hearing.  I hope you will check back as this is important to individuals, couples, families and organizations.  Then I will offer some remedies that will be easy to put into effect immediately.  Have a great day!  If you are in the smoke and fires of the West Coast of the United States, my prayers continue to be with you.  We still have relatives (including a grandson, his mother and our daughter, her husband) as well as friends there.  If you are affected by Hurricane Sally and her remnants, I am praying for you as I write.  For my readers in India, my prayers are for you as well during your spike in the pandemic.  There’s a lot going on politically as well as with people with divergent views and certainly on the health front.  Be safe – for others.  Please.

– John –

{The content of this blog is adapted from a public presentation by my wife, Judy Myklebust, ASN, who is also severely Hard of Hearing.}

Published by John M

I think differently. Every once in a while, I have an insight or a thought that could be useful to others. My background is over 30 years in church leadership & 30 years in social work with M.Div. and M.S.W. degrees - and yes, I do enjoy retirement. My heart is in teaching. And I try to teach in a way that you don't have to have a degree to understand it. So, join me on this journey we call Life as we explore God, the Bible, the Church and the world around us together. I've been married to my wife for 48 years. We have three grown and married children of whom we are very proud. And they have blessed us with seven grandchildren. We both grew up in Washington State, but we now live in North Carolina with a lot of experience between those two points.

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