Millions of people experience hearing loss each year. While gradual loss of some hearing may be a byproduct of aging, hearing loss that is present at birth or developed early in life may be so significant that people are considered clinically deaf.

According to the World Health Organization, 1.5 billion people across the globe live with some degree of hearing loss. Chronic ear infections and diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, and meningitis account for more than 30% of hearing loss in children, which is a significant problem in less developed nations. Since communication is so vital to the human race and helps people feel more connected, those who are deaf can feel isolated from others because of their hearing issues.

David Wantuck, Community Engagement Specialist at Deaf Access Services, suggests ways for the public to be more welcoming and accommodating to the deaf community.

  1. Learn about hearing loss.
    • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association indicates there are three basic forms of hearing loss, which are classified based on which part of the ear is damaged.
    • Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound can’t travel through the outer and middle ear. Soft sounds are challenging to hear, and louder sounds may be muffled. Medical treatment or surgery often can remedy conductive hearing loss.
    • Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss. It is caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathway to the brain.
    • Mixed hearing loss occurs when conductive and sensorineural hearing loss happen concurrently.
  2. Enroll in a sign language class.
    • Wantuck says, “If you know someone at school, work, or in the community who is deaf, you can foster a deeper connection with this person by learning American Sign Language (ASL).” ASL classes are readily available, and a person can learn many words and phrases to make it easier to communicate with someone who is deaf. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average person can make out just 30% of conversations by lip-reading, so learning sign language is the best way to foster effective communication.
  3. Caption or bring in interpreters.
    • Employers and educators can take strides to include more captioning or signed interpretations for lessons, meetings, and webinars. Text transcripts or slide shows can be sent as a follow-up to oral presentations.

Many companies are unsure of the resources that might be needed by people with hearing disabilities. By expanding hiring diversity and working with deaf people, managers can foster inclusivity, and make positive changes to their organizations. Wantuck says, “Being more inclusive of deaf individuals can be a goal during Deaf History Month and throughout the rest of the year.”

Deaf Access Services is a program of People, Inc. Learn more about the organization, upcoming events, and more at For those interested in ASL classes, visit or call 716-335-9388. Volunteers are also welcome.