FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. WHAT IS THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF?

The National Institute for the Deaf is a registered and accredited NPC (Non-profit Company), established in 1881 in Worcester, South Africa. Its vision is to develop the full potential of every Deaf person including people who experienced hearing loss later in life. To give effect to its vision the Institute provides a full continuum of education, training, empowerment, rehabilitation, spiritual and social development, knowledge resource and care services / programmes covering the whole lifespan of Deaf people and people with hearing loss, as well as guidance and support to parents of children with hearing loss.

2. WHAT TERM SHOULD I USE TO DESCRIBE PEOPLE WHO ARE DEAF OR HAVE HEARING LOSS?

Deaf people, who cannot hear well enough to distinguish speech, prefer to use Sign Language to communicate with other people and see themselves as a language and cultural minority group in society. They usually choose to be referred to as “Deaf” with an uppercase “D”. There are also people with hearing loss (with various degrees of hearing loss) who prefer to use Sign Language as a primary communication medium and identify themselves with Deaf culture. They also prefer to be referred to as “Deaf”.

People who experience hearing loss later in life usually prefer to be seen as people with hearing loss or hearing impaired persons. They don’t like to be referred to as "Deafened". They use speech and speech reading (of which lip reading forms part) to communicate with hearing people. They do not use Sign Language as their primary means of communication. However, when communicating with them it is of great help to them when basic signs, facial expressions and body language are used to support the speech reading of the words that can easily be confused with other words with similar lip form(s). Some hard-of-hearing people may prefer to be seen as part of this group.

"Hard-of-hearing" refers to people who have some hearing ability, ranging from the ability to hear environmental sounds to those who can understand speech even on the phone, usually with the help of a hearing aid. "Hard-of-hearing" people can range from those who identify more with hearing people to those who tend to associate themselves with the Deaf community/culture, use Sign Language and see themselves, regardless of level of hearing status, as "Deaf," with an uppercase “D”.

3. WHERE DO PEOPLE WITH BOTH VISION AND HEARING IMPAIRMENT FIT IN?

Persons with both vision and hearing impairments prefer to be referred to as Deaf-blind. They see Deaf-blindness as a unique disability, and not a combination of two distinct disabilities, namely being blind and Deaf. Deaf-blind people are a very diverse group depending on their degree of residual hearing and/or vision. For further information please go to www.deafblindsa.co.za.

4. HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE DEAF OR HARD OF HEARING IN SOUTH AFRICA?

In 2011, Statistics SA stated that there are 104 738 people who cannot hear at all and 241 734 who have great difficulty hearing in the country. In addition, 3,2% of South Africans indicated that they have a form of hearing loss. That is 1 650 909 people.

5. HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BABY OR YOUNG CHILD IS DEAF OR HARD OF HEARING?

The following signs may indicate hearing loss:

  • Does not respond to speech when there is no eye contact
  • It seems as if he/she disobeys instructions
  • Gets a fright when touched following a call from out of his/her eyesight
  • Unclear speech and pronunciation of words
  • Unable to talk
  • Looks frustrated and cries for no apparent reason
  • Prefer to keep on showing to objects he/she wants
  • Does not wake up from a loud noise
  • No first words by the age of 1 year
  • Does not respond when called

If you have any concerns in this regard, take your child to an audiologist, or contact NID Academy.

6. WHAT CAUSES DEAFNESS?

Causes of Deafness include the following:

  • Congenital (from birth) Deafness:
    • Deafness inherited from Deaf or hearing parents.
    • Syndromes (e.g. Waardenburg and Usher)
  • Acquired Deafness:
    • Deafness caused by illnesses (e.g. neonatal jaundice, meningitis, rubella); trauma before, during or after birth, as well as later in life; ototoxic medication.
    • Environmental factors (e.g. accidents, constant high noise levels); illnesses (e.g. otitus media, otosclerosis)
7. WHAT IMPACT CAN HEARING LOSS HAVE ON AN OLDER PERSON'S LIFE?

Persons with hearing loss may mistake words in a conversation, miss directions or warnings, or leave a ringing doorbell unanswered. Older people who experience diminishing hearing may become depressed or withdraw from others to avoid feeling frustrated or embarrassed about not understanding what is being said. They may become suspicious of relatives or friends who they believe "mumble" or "don't speak up" on purpose. Hearing loss can cause older people to become more isolated and can even put them in harm's way if they are unable to respond to warnings or hear sounds of impending danger. It is easy to mistakenly call older people confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative just because they don't hear well.

8. WHAT CAN I DO WHEN I THINK I HAVE HEARING LOSS?

If you think that you have a hearing problem, schedule an appointment with your family doctor. In some cases, he or she can identify the problem and prescribe treatment.

Your doctor may also recommend that you visit an audiologist. An audiologist is a health professional who can identify and measure hearing loss. The audiologist will use a device called an audiometer to test your ability to hear sounds of different pitch and loudness. The tests are painless. Audiologists do not prescribe drugs or perform surgery. If you need a hearing aid, an audiologist can help you choose the right one.

9. ARE THERE ANY SAFETY ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE, WHICH RELATE TO PEOPLE WITH HEARING LOSS?

People with hearing loss are required to comply with the same Occupational Safety and Health Act Regulations as their hearing peers.

Depending on the workplace, some employers may choose to modify the workplace with equipment such as convex mirrors in small areas so that Deaf people can see around corners and be more aware of approaching vehicles or people. Sometimes flashing lights are installed which operate consecutively with alarm systems. In most instances, the costs incurred for such modifications are covered by government-funded programs. For more information contact the NID Academy.

10. IF A CHILD HAS SEVERE HEARING LOSS, WHEN SHOULD THEY GET A HEARING AID?

Whenever a hearing loss is identified, the child should be fitted with an appropriate hearing aid as soon as possible. There are some studies that state that if a child has not received appropriate amplification by six months of age, they will have poorer language skills compared to children amplified before six months of age. Therefore it is very important to identify hearing loss in young children early and to get suitable hearing aids on them at 1 or 2 months of age.

WHAT DOES A SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER DO?

Sign Language interpreters are highly skilled professionals. They must be able to listen to another person’s words, inflections and intent and simultaneously convert them into the visual language of signs using the mode of communication preferred by the Deaf consumer. The interpreter must also be able to comprehend the signs, inflections and intent of the Deaf consumer and simultaneously speak them in articulate, appropriate language. They must understand the cultures in which they work and apply that knowledge to promote effective cross-cultural communications.

12. IS SIGN LANGUAGE UNIVERSAL?

South African Sign Language (SASL) differs from that of America and other countries. Each country develops its own Sign Language which is different to that of other countries. Just like any other language, Sign Language also has dialects. In South Africa, there are different dialects of Sign Language. However, the various groups of Deaf people, do not, in general, experience problems in understanding each other’s dialects.

13. WHAT IS TOTAL COMMUNICATION?

It is a philosophy of communication where any means is used to communicate. This may include writing, speaking clearly, using sign language, speaking while signing, etc.

14. WHAT IS LIP READING (SPEECH READING?)

Speech reading (which includes lip reading) is reading what is said by reading the lip forms, facial expressions, supported basic signs and body language of the lip speaker.

15. CAN I USE SIGN LANGUAGE WITH MY HEARING BABY?

You certainly can. Baby signing is very popular. Parents use it to reduce frustration for their young children, and it may even have language benefits. Some researchers and experts suggest that all babies (hearing and Deaf) are able to learn communication in signs even before verbal (voice) communication.

NID is a non-profit company (NPC) and a Level 1 BBBEE contributor. Donations to NID (including donations in kind) can be reciprocated with an 18A tax certificate.