Bringing Change. One Voice at a Time.

Jun 23, 2016 · 5 min read

By Urey Chan

To me, sound is one of the most beautiful gifts that a human can ever receive. I believe it is a joy for the majority of the people to hear the water splashing as they turn on the faucets early in the morning. It is a wonder for most people to hear their own footsteps as they jog through the trails.

But, wait? I just said the majority of the people. Why not all of the people? Because there are some people who have partial or complete hearing loss.

Let’s start with Spelling List #15.

Ok…maybe now is not the time to be doing a spelling bee competition unless there is a majority vote from SASE members. Anyone in?

If you attended elementary school, you probably remember teachers forcing you to memorize all of the states or also spell the words correctly. My class was unique because there were several deaf and hard of hearing students. There were two interpreters to sign for them. To promote awareness about the deaf culture, the teacher would dedicate a time block every Friday to let the interpreter teach us basic American Sign Language.

One lesson I will never forget was when the interpreter raised a unique question: “I have now taught you the basics of American Sign Language. Would anyone like to take a guess on how you would sign for the deaf-blind?” I will not go into too many details since there are many creative ways to go about doing this. One of the ways is to fingerspell slowly on the deaf-blind hand. For example, water would be fingerspelled on the hand as “W.A.T.E.R.”

Deaf-blind communication, from

Does technology exist for the deaf-blind? What is the difference between a hearing aid or a sound processor?

Currently, does technology exist to help the deaf and the blind? Yes! Braille is the primary means of communication for the deaf-blind. But, what kind of technology is available for the deaf? Well, there are both hearing aids as well as sound processors. Wait, what is the difference? Don’t worry, I have asked the same question before since a hearing aid can look similar to a sound processor at first sight…

Comparison of a hearing aid versus a sound processor, from

A hearing aid makes sounds louder. It is kind of similar to asking a person to speak louder than usual. But, you don’t want the person to be screaming next to your ear. Based on current knowledge, software exists to analyze a patient’s current hearing level and make adjustments to the hearing aid. It is usually recommended for people who have partial hearing loss.

A sound processor works together in conjunction with a cochlear implant. Together, they work to provide sound signals to the brain!This is usually recommended for people who have moderate to profound hearing loss within both ears. However, this option must be considered carefully because there are numerous factors, particularly age. It is easier to learn how to start speaking at a younger age compared to an older age.

Looking Through the Lenses of a Hard of Hearing Person

Sally is happily strolling through the mall. Then, she stops in the middle of the aisle, near the entrance of Macy’s because she feels the phone vibrating in her pocket. Her friend has texted her, and Sally is eager to find out about the news. Suddenly, she feels a forceful tap on her shoulder. She turns around, only to face Alice — another shopper in the mall, who is clearly unhappy.

“Are you deaf? I have asked you to move aside since you are blocking the entrance, and you did not move!” Alice tells Sally.

“As a matter of fact, I am deaf within both ears, and I apologize if I did not move over,” Sally calmly responds. Alice immediately proceeds to apologize for her rudeness.

Note: The actual names in the story have been replaced with fictional names.


I clearly remember this story. It was June 2008, and I was attending a summer camp at Colorado Springs, Colorado. There was a tornado warning, so all of the campers evacuated to a nearby cabin. To pass time, Sally and other deaf and hard of hearing people told stories about what it was like growing up deaf or hard of hearing and the challenges that they currently faced.

How are people with disabilities treated in other countries such as Asia?

While Sally was sharing her story, one of the campers brought up an interesting point. Are there other forms of sign language within other countries? After doing a small investigation, there are indeed other forms of sign language such as Chinese Sign Language and Taiwanese Sign Language!

But, how well are other forms of sign language perceived within other countries? How are people with disabilities treated within other countries?

According to one article from October 2013, there were only ten interpreters for 100,000 deaf people within Hong Kong. Lai, one of the interpreters, laments that the shortage of interpreters creates challenges for deaf people such as shopping or going to see the doctor. 1.

In another article from May 2014, people express frustration with China’s education system. One of the deaf people interviewed expressed that if she can hear, she would pursue being a doctor instead of working within a factory to reproduce paintings. 2.

What if there was a way she could have access to technology to help her to hear at least some sounds? What if there was a way to help increase awareness about deaf culture in Hong Kong so that an interpreter does not have to drive all the way to a certain location and translate for just three minutes?

Helen Keller, the first deaf-blind to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, once said that “Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” By raising awareness about the challenges that people currently face, we can provide them with opportunities to be one step closer to overcoming their challenges. I encourage everyone to make a small change in order to make a better world for all of us. Also, be on the lookout for SASE NC 2016’s volunteering event and other volunteering events with local SASE chapters!

In addition, if you have extra questions about the deaf and hard of hearing culture or technology, comment below!




Feel free to hit the recommend button (♡ icon below) or share if you enjoyed this article! Thanks for reading! #SASEPrints

Originally published at


The official blog of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers


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The official blog of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers

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