Become more Deaf aware!

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Published On: 5 Apr 2022Categories: Articles, Deaf Awareness

Deaf people all over the world view themselves as belonging to a linguistic minority with its own culture. This deaf community has its own language (Sign Language) and especially for the South African Deaf culture – South Africa Sign Language (SASL). Deaf culture has its own history, shared values, social norms, customs, and technology which are transferred from generation to generation.


  • Conductive Hearing Loss occurs when there is an obstruction in the transmission of sound tot the inner ear.
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss is caused by the inappropriate functioning of the cochlea or the hearing of the cochlea or the hearing nerve.
  • Mixed Hearing Loss is a combination of the above. Excessive accumulation of ear was or infection of the auditory canal in the outer ear can cause hearing loss. The natural aging process, excessive exposure to noise medication and head injures can also cause hearing loss.


  • Pre-lingual: When hearing loss occurs before the acquisition of speech (Afrikaans, English, etc). This group see themselves as Deaf and not as persons with a disability. [The word Deaf is spelt with a capital “D”].
  • Post-lingual: When hearing loss occurs after acquisition of speech (Afr./Eng. etc). This group does not use Sign Language – communication is done by means of lip reading/speech enhanced with gestures/hearing aids or a combination thereof, and the use of a lip-speaker/note taker to facilitate communication, if required.


  • Discharging ears
  • Earaches/pain in area of head/ear
  • Ringing, buzzing and roaring sounds in the ear
  • Swelling around ear
  • Dizziness
  • “Blocked sensation” in the ear
  • Frequent requests for repetitions
  • Sits near the television or has the volume loud
  • A baby’s babbling ceases around 6-8 months of age, or the babbling is replaced by screaming.
  • Insufficient language development as the child grows and difficulty in following instructions.


  • Attend to earaches, discharge, and discomfort in the ear immediately
  • Do not insert any objects into the ear canal
  • Do not instil ear drops not prescribed for yourself into your ears
  • Do not expose your ears to excessively loud music for extended periods of time
  • Be aware of the causes of hearing difficulties and its applicability to yourself
  • Screen your hearing ability regularly.

A hearing test is carried out using advanced equipment that allows the Audiologist to identify the site, severity, and possible cause of the hearing loss in patients from newborns to geriatrics. Management can either be medical, i.e., referral to E.N.T. or rehabilitative, i.e., hearing aids, sign language training, etc.


  • Deaf people can read lips
  • A deaf person can hear you clearly if they are wearing a hearing aid
  • Deafness is a disability
  • When deaf people are signing, they are signing in English
  • Unusual sounding speech means that the deaf person is mentally retarded


Always remain positive and relaxed when communicating with the Deaf. Show that you care, your attitude can build confidence.



  • Tap gently on the shoulder to get attention.
  • If beyond reach to tap, wave in the air until eye is established.
  • Switch lights on and off to get attention.
  • Establish eye contact before beginning communication.
  • This is considered a stare in other cultures but not in the Deaf culture. South Africa Sign Language (SASL) is a visual language, and therefore the eyes are used to process the message.
  • Eye contact can also be used as a turn – taking technique, especially in group discussions where everyone looks at the next speaker.
  • Wait for your turn to start signing (equivalent to speaking).
  • Keep the face clear of any obstruction. E.g., hair, scarf, etc.
  • Show you are attentive by nodding slightly, if you are expressionless, it coneys inattentiveness.


  • Do not touch elsewhere on the body to get attention, e.g., head, face, stomach, etc.
  • Do not use a fist/punch to get attention.
  • Do not kick or throw things to get attention.
  • Do not stand against light or a window.
  • Do not pass between two people signing. If you have to, excuse yourself before walking through.
  • Do not stand to close.
  • Do not look away during the conversation as that denotes termination of communication.
  • Do not sign with hands full of objects, e.g., cup, books, etc.
  • Do not eat or chew anything while signing.
  • Do not stand in a dark spot.


Sounds that are sufficiently loud, can damage your sensitive inner ear structures that produce hearing loss. Noise exposure can occur at any age, including early infancy. Very loud sounds of short duration, such as an explosion or gunfire can produce immediate, severe, and permanent loss of hearing. Longer exposure to less intense, but still hazardous sounds, exacts a gradual toll in hearing loss, initially without the victim’s awareness e.g., high volume music, recreational vehicles, airplanes, lawn care equipment, woodworking tools, industrial machines etc.


As you can see it is very important to protect your ears, as once they are damaged, they cannot be fixed. Avoid very loud noise, especially for any length of time. Use ear protection if you work in a noisy industrial, mining, road, military, or construction environment. Because reduced hearing normally takes place gradually and there is rarely any pain or physical discomfort, it is often difficult to know you have a hearing loss. Here are 4 basics signs that can alert you to someone who has difficulty hearing:

  • Needing the TV or radio levels much higher than other people.
  • Complaining that other people always talk unclear.
  • Difficulty hearing when in big groups or when there are lots of background noise.
  • Not hearing sounds like doorbells, car hooters, telephones, or alarm clocks.


It is offensive to use the following:
Deaf and dumb, deaf mute…