Imagine walking into church and not wanting to talk to anyone. No, you’re not mad at another member or the pastor. You’re embarrassed. It has become increasingly difficult to hold a conversation. You try to smile and nod, but it’s at the inappropriate time. Frustrated, you wonder: “Why do I keep coming? I can’t even hear the Word!” Unfortunately, there are people who walk into our churches and feel just that way.
Whether it is the construction worker who has lost his hearing over years of running heavy equipment, or the young girl who had spinal meningitis when she was one year old and lost 90% of her hearing, hearing loss affects people of all ages. Hearing loss does not discriminate, and it often carries a stigma.
People often link hearing aids and hearing loss with “old people.” My father had this problem. He lost 70% of his hearing in one ear due to a childhood illness. As an adult he finally sought help. After he was fitted with his new hearing aid the audiologist told him, “This is the same model President Reagan wears.” To a man in his twenties this was not a compliment! It wasn’t until his late fifties that he finally wore one.
Whether it is because of embarrassment like my father, or the severity of the hearing loss, many of our members are not able to hear the Word on Sunday morning. They avoid Bible study because they can’t hear what everyone says. They duck out on fellowship because there isn’t much point when you can’t communicate. Yet the Word is of chief importance. The apostle Paul wrote, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Every member—whether deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or those with special needs—is a part of the body. “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many… But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:14a, 26, 27)
As members of the body of Christ, we should not be satisfied with sitting in a room with each other for one hour a week, then going our separate ways. As the body, we build each other up with the Word of God, share in each other’s struggles, and rejoice in each other’s successes. The body is not satisfied that those with hearing loss can merely read a printed sermon and the hymns, but strives to aid those members of the body by utilizing interpreters, assisted listening devices, looping, and proper lighting and visibility for lip reading.
Your congregation is not alone in these efforts. The Ministry for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) is here to help. MDHH offers a wealth of information to help break down barriers and stigmas regarding hearing loss, to clearly proclaim the Word of God, and to bring the body of Christ closer together.
Aaron Duve is a member of the MDHH Committee and serves the body of Christ as pastor at Holy Redeemer, Port Huron, Mich.
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