Intercultural comunication and hearing loss
A shared world view is important for successful inter-cultural communication. Shared world-views develops as the result of a series of successful cross-cultural negotiations over time. However, people with conductive hearing loss and who come from minority cultures are less likely to be able to successfully participate in the interchanges and negotiations that are needed to arrive at a shared world view
Firstly, when people with conductive hearing loss do engage in intercultural communication, they are often unable to do so as successfully as those who can hear well. They may misunderstand what is said. They are often slower to learn concepts. They may distract a group with off topic interjections, or they may just maintain a perplexed silence. Secondly, Aboriginal people with conductive hearing loss often seek to cope with their communication difficulties by avoiding or minimizing their involvement in intercultural communication. In the case of Aboriginal children with conductive hearing loss in Australia, they are absent from school more often than others (NACCHO, 2003). When they are at school they are more likely to try to avoid engagement with their teachers and involvement in many classroom activities.
Many Aboriginal adults with hearing loss employ the same tactics - absence or avoidance.
"I try to have little to do with white people"(Aboriginal Health Worker with hearing loss).
By avoiding or minimising their involvement in intercultural communication, Aboriginal people with hearing loss are dealing with the anxiety they may otherwise experience during intercultural communication, where successful communication depends on levels of auditory/verbal skill they do not have. However, if they are familiar with the people and social processes involved, this can help to minimize their anxiety, notwithstanding any hearing loss. Conversely, communication with unfamiliar people in the context of unfamiliar social processes compounds the communication difficulties that result from hearing loss. For example, school children with hearing loss often have more difficulty when dealing with a temporary teacher (an unfamiliar person) and exhibit more significant behaviour problems when they are participating in school excursions (involves unfamiliar social process).
Over time, their adverse experiences and negative response patterns have a cumulative result. To begin with, they experience basic communication difficulties. They have difficulty hearing-what-is-said, because of their hearing loss. This, in turn, can lead to difficulty with understanding-what-is-heard, because they have not acquired the familiarity with Western 'world views' that would help them to understand-what-is-said. The problem compounds first in childhood and then into adulthood; many people with conductive hearing loss seek to avoid or minimize the risks of intercultural communication - anxiety, communicative failure andshame. As a result, those with conductive hearing loss develop less familiarity with Western ways of doing things than do other members of their group.
The effects of this disengagement can be seen in the comment from a teacher when told which of the Aboriginal children in her class had been identified as having conductive hearing loss. She said that she had thought her difficulties in communicating with and relating to these students had arisen because they were 'more Aboriginal' than other students. This comment is indicative of the way in which hearing loss can obstruct the development of shared 'world views'. It also serves to show how a focus on cultural differences, as an explanation for intercultural communication difficulties, can obscure recognition of the contribution that conductive hearing loss often makes to these difficulties.
Conductive hearing loss contributes directly to cultural and linguistic differences as well as interacting with them to compound their effect on intercultural communication. Ways to minimise these effects are outlined in phoenix training programs - see Phoenix training programs.