Learning a language is one of the hardest — and most rewarding — things someone can do with their time. But if you have hearing loss, is it still possible?
Of course! Though it might be a little more difficult, going through the language learning process is not only doable, it can even benefit those hard of hearing in the long run.
“When I took classes in school it was difficult for me to keep up with the curriculum and I couldn’t rely on other methods I use to listen in class such as lip-reading. The experience lowered my confidence and instilled a fear in me of learning a new language,” writes Kirsten Brackett in her “3 Tips for Learning a Language with Hearing Loss” blog. This is an understandable fear. Learning a new language takes you out of your comfort zone, and the tricks and methods you normally use to communicate in day-to-day life may not be easily applied. This is doubly so for those with a hearing deficit.
Kirsten Brackett outlined what worked for her, and it was all about finding what played to her strengths. She took it slow, determined the best resources to help supplement her learning (online classes and tests turned out to be really useful), and wasn’t afraid to ask for help. Repetition was also useful. “I usually need to hear a word multiple times in order to hear the sounds making up the word,” she said.
In an article on British Deaf News, the writer took a similar but different approach. “My support worker would point to the word as they said it so I could work out what the lip patterns looked like, and roughly what it sounded like. With constant repetition, like in English, I gradually picked it up.”
Lip reading didn’t help Brackett, but it helped the writer for BDN (though repetition assisted them both). What might work for one, might not for another. It’s all about finding your own way. For online help, check out Brackett’s blog, head over to popular sites such as Duolingo, or search for resources on Google. What’s available at your fingertips is endless, and with a little bit of research, you can easily find the one that best suits your needs.
Learning a language is not only teaching yourself how to speak differently, but to think differently. Everything from Spanish to French to Latin to ASL requires you (and your brain) to grow and adapt in ways you might not have thought possible. It is a very worthwhile pursuit that can make you feel more confident in yourself and your roots.
If you struggle with hearing, the process can help re-wire your brain, helping you practice comprehension and retention of any audible speech. Your brain is a muscle, and learning a new language is one of the greatest workouts you can give it.