- May 18, 2020

This is one story as part of the Voices of People with Disabilities during COVID19 Outbreak series

This piece is based on the message shared by Neeta Keshary, the President of the National Association of the Hard of Hearing and Deafened in Nepal, SHRUTI.

“In this pandemic and lockdown situation, I have faced a lot of pressure and stress. Many hard of hearing people  have messaged me that they cannot get hearing health care services and information about the pandemic.

Persons using hearing aids or cochlear implants cannot go to their doctor or audiologist for mapping or audiograms. They cannot buy hearing aid batteries and get audiological maintenance services. They also cannot go to the hospital even when they are having an ear infection. Hearing aids centers are closed due to the lockdown, so people do not have access to batteries or hearing aids. The Government does not recognize hearing health care as a necessity for hard of hearing persons

Televised broadcasts about COVID-19 are not captioned. As one example,  the Ministry of Health was asked to provide captioning of their daily updates on COVID-19 but they said that they cannot do it as it is very difficult. They have started to give news with sign language, which is good start, but most hard of hearing persons cannot understand sign. As a result, hard of hearing persons are not getting information about the overall situation nor are they getting specific information such as when and where to buy food and necessities. When lights flash on the television screen, we have no idea what it means, and this is making things worst.

In interactions with most other people, hard of hearing persons are facing additional communication barriers. They usually rely on lipreading and being close to the speaker. Now they must practice social distancing and be far apart from the speaker. They cannot lipread because most people are using masks that cover their lips. The information gap has increased for hard of hearing persons and their social isolation has widened.

We are living through a serious pandemic made all the more frightening because we do not understand what is happening.”

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