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Teresa Barnes of HearCommunication tests the decibal levels at The Land & Water Company on Tuesday in Carlsbad to help the business know how to better accommodate patrons who are hearing impaired. Photo by Shana Thompson
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Local woman aims to help businesses become ‘Hearing Friendly’

CARLSBAD — One of the worst things about being hearing impaired for Teresa Barnes is that most people around her are not aware of her condition.

“People are unaware that I have it, so therefore they think I am being rude or bored or arrogant or I’m just not paying attention,” she said. “Most of the time I am trying to process what someone has said to me.”

A sticker in the window of Osko Wellness on Tuesday in Carlsbad lets patrons know that it is a Hearing Friendly Business. Photo by Shana Thompson

Barnes said it is much easier to identify a person in a wheelchair as someone with a disability, but not so much for the deaf or hearing impaired, which can at first be an invisible condition.

She has made it her mission to change all that by establishing HearCommunications. The organization addresses the problems of the hearing impaired, of whom there are 660,000 people in San Diego County.

Barnes grew up hearing impaired and did not get a hearing aid until she was an adult working as the RN overseeing the emergency department at a hospital.

“I could hear birds chirping for the first time,” the Carlsbad resident said. “A whole new world opened up for me.”

Still, she and others like her have had dangerous, accidental run-ins with people and their equipment.

Barnes describes an “ah-ha” moment after she was nearly run over by a skateboarder at Mission Beach and being nearly plowed down on the slopes by a snow skier from behind.

When she complained to a friend, she told Barnes, “They can’t see you have a hearing loss.”

Ah-ha! She realized there had to be a way to let people know, at a distance, that a person is hearing impaired. She came up with a logo that can be worn as a lapel pin or applied as decals or patches to attach to a variety of items such as clothing, hats, car bumpers, anything that would let someone know they are dealing with someone who is hard of hearing.

Her current passion is getting businesses to become “Hearing Friendly,” and also getting them to realize that one in five of their employees and customers are hearing impaired.

Teresa Barnes of HearCommunication trains employees of Oska Wellness how to accommodate hearing impaired patrons. Photo by Shana Thompson

If a person agrees to make their business Hearing Friendly, Barnes tests their site for decibel numbers and if they are high, teaches them how to lower the noise.

Her program includes training on how to recognize someone who is hearing impaired.

“I teach them how to communicate with them,” she said.

When a business is pronounced Hearing Friendly, a decal is placed somewhere in the front of the building that signifies the decibel level is comfortable and the owner and staff have been trained to recognize and communicate with the hearing impaired.

“It says their salespeople have been trained to talk 45 miles per hours instead of 95 miles an hour,” she said.

Barnes, 67, said she worries about young people who are 18 and even younger who work behind the counter or as wait staff of area businesses that have loud, throbbing music with decibels as high as 109. She said if a person is exposed to more than 85 decibels for more than eight hours, their hearing can be permanently damaged. A safe number of decibels are about 72, she said.

She also offers a program aimed at human resources at any business that can be taken online to help correct that problem.

Barnes said she knows of a local woman who was let go from her job due to her hearing loss after signing a document promising she wouldn’t sue.

“That wouldn’t happen to a wheelchair person,” she said.

Teresa Barnes of HearCommunication. Photo by Shana Thompson

Since the whole month of May is better hearing and speech month, she is looking for businesses who want to be designated Hearing Friendly.

Barnes will visit the businesses and determine what needs to be done in order to get the decal and be designated as such.

Daniel Edward Powell, owner of the Village on Cedros, has already had his business designated a Hearing Friendly business.

“It is the correct way to serve your employees and our customers,” he said. “I would not operate any other way.”

Barnes has a book about to drop titled “Sound Advice: Tune into Hearing; Does your market hear you?”

The book is about helping businesses connect with the hearing impaired to increase their inclusion, while increasing their businesses’ productivity, revenue, relationships and retention of both employees and their customers.

Barnes does not do this alone. She has an advisory board to offer assistance. And she gets support from the community. Last March she was honored with proclamations for her work from the mayors of both Carlsbad and San Marcos.

To learn more about becoming a Hearing Friendly, business reach her at [email protected] or (760) 717-8190.





Teresa Barnes, RN May 5, 2018 at 9:18 pm

Deaf Deaf,
Dr. Marion Downs who pioneered newborn screening told me years ago to use the word hearing impaired, As an audiologist, she knew the difference between Deaf and the various degrees of hearing loss. The term hearing loss can be used in certain context and not in others. And yes, it is antiquated.

Teresa Barnes, RN May 5, 2018 at 9:12 pm

Deaf Deaf,
Thank you for your comment. I am aware of the fact that HOH is from the 1969 ADA Law and antiquated. When I speak on stage I have moved forward with a new term “Hear’rific and Terrific” to acknowledge those with hearing loss between mild to profound who are the majority with hearing loss and our needs have not been addressed for the most part at all. My own aunt is Deaf and while I appreciate the compassion towards the severity of this health condition. The Deaf population is less than 1% of the population whereas the “HOH, Hearing Impaired as the Hearing People like to call us, or Hear’rifics and Terrific are 20% according to a John Hopkins Medical Study. So, become part of the movement by supporting businesses that have an interest in helping us with our unmet ADA 9/15/210 Rights in a Pro-Active Way. Rather than the usual fighting that’s been going on for years and always wanting to put the Deaf first. The majority can help you with your access issues and make it a “Hearing Friendly World” for all. Did you know 90% of Deaf babies are created by hearing parents? It is hard breaking to see too many young families struggle with this and not changes.
Let me know what your needs are out there in businesses so that we can help change the plight of those of us who have unrecognized Hearing Loss. And, no many of us really dislike hard of hearing as it was a term given to us by the Deaf community with the 1969 law. None of my group as the time or desire to fight that governmental change. The term hearing loss is vague and deaf should always be capitalized when referring to a person, not a condition. So, I hope you get out of your own box and realize there are many more people that need help with hearing loss that are not Deaf. And yes the Deaf do not have as many problems communicating in a Hearing World as their disability is seen, however those of with mild to profound do. You have a Deaf Vest to wear on the ski slopes. I am not deaf, so I am not going to wear a Deaf Vest. Your group has been advocating for your needs since 1969 and the time of Helen Keller. Those with mild to profound are the leading disability and we need to be included in the Corporate Culture and have our needs met too.

Deaf Deaf May 4, 2018 at 3:44 pm

Please be advised that the term, “hearing impaired” is unacceptable. Here is the explanation:

The term “Hearing Impaired” is a technically accurate term much preferred by hearing people, largely because they view it as politically correct. In the mainstream society, to boldly state one’s disability (e.g., deaf, blind, etc.) is somewhat rude and impolite. To their way of thinking, it is far better to soften the harsh reality by using the word “impaired” along with “visual”, “hearing”, and so on. “Hearing-impaired” is a well-meaning word that is much-resented by deaf and hard of hearing people. This term was popular in the 70s and 80s, however, now is used mostly by doctors, audiologists and other people who are mainly interested in our ears “not working.”

While it’s true that their hearing is not perfect, that doesn’t make them impaired as people. Most would prefer to be called Deaf, Hard of Hearing or deaf when the need arises to refer to their hearing status, but not as a primary way to identify them as people (where their hearing status is not significant).

We are deaf, and not people with impairments (obstacles) in life!

“‘Impaired’ implies that there is something wrong with you … we can communicate with the world just fine, but often, it is the hearing community which struggles to communicate with us.”

Hope that you and your people respect by refraining to use the antiquated and offensive term. Hearing loss (deaf, hard of hearing, etc.) is more acceptable for everyone who is not just deaf.

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