Did you know that according to Action on Hearing Loss, 1 in 6 people in the UK have a hearing loss? This figure is expected to rise to 1 in 5 people.
I am one of them. I have had a hearing loss for over 30 years and the impact on my life was very great!
There are varying degrees of deafness. Some deaf people have a hearing loss which can range from mild, moderate, severe to profound whilst people with no hearing are usually known as DEAF (spelt in capital letters). DEAF people may use sign language (BSL) and fingerspelling. I know some DEAF people who are brilliant lipreaders and who hardly ever use signs. Everybody is different.
How can you tell if someone is deaf?
You can’t see a hearing loss which makes it difficult to spot. Sometimes we can be thought of as rude, stuck up or worse, simply because we didn’t hear what was said; especially if the speaker was behind us! You might look for some of these signs to indicate a person who has a hearing loss.
- Our television is very loud and we may speak with a very loud voice.
- We may frequently ask you to repeat things.
- Sometimes we have a voice that sounds a bit different to normal voices but not always.
- We may use more gestures than people usually do.
- You may even spot our hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- We may not realise there is traffic or people behind us.
What’s it like to be deaf?
Communication/talking in all its forms is very important to all of us in every aspect of life. For those of us with hearing loss, communication in the hearing world is very difficult. Speaking for myself, my hearing loss affected my family and my work. I retired in 1995 because my hearing loss made it too difficult to do my job as I would like to. Retired life was very strange and I noticed my hearing loss even more because I found it difficult to start a conversation -what was the point when I almost certainly wouldn’t hear their answers? I became quite depressed and felt very isolated. People often find it frustrating and irritating when talking to those of with hearing loss because it is difficult for them and they have to repeat themselves. Going out was not something I looked forward to because I knew I would end up feeling left out and become anxious and miserable. It was a horrible feeling and I wondered how I could overcome this. At first I wasn’t very good at telling people I had a hearing loss. This made life even more difficult.
What can be done?
First I joined a lipreading class and this was one of the best things I could do. There is so much to be gained from these classes. Like others, I use my eyes to help me make sense of what I am hearing/lipreading. Also year by year the hearing aids become more sophisticated and powerful and there are advances in other devices to help – subtitles and loop systems for example. I even began to tell people I was a lipreader.
Last year I noticed my hearing was worse and following tests I had a cochlear implant in my right ear. The difference it has made to my life is incredible. I can hear my grandchildren, the birds; I can follow conversations, amazing! I feel I have a personality again. On 10th May I am having my left cochlear implant and I hope it will be as successful as the first. Other people have different experiences – everybody is different.
Even with lipreading, all the available aids and technology, those of us with hearing loss still need your help!! If you are deaf aware you can help so much!!
What is deaf awareness? It is being sensitive to the needs of others who are deaf or DEAF and aware of how you can help.
You can help to have better communication with relatives, friends, colleagues and customers who have hearing loss.
Here are some communication tips that have been found useful by those of us with hearing loss:
- Find a place with good lighting (to make lipreading easier) and little or no background noise to make conversations easier.
- Soft furnishings, carpets and curtains also help.
- Try to ensure you are facing the light so that we can see your face clearly. If you sit with your back to the light your face will be in darkness making it difficult to lipread
- Sit or stand the same distance that you would for any other conversation.
- Make sure you have our attention before you start speaking.
- Face us (to make lipreading easier), speak clearly and a little slower, using plain language and where possible whole sentences, with normal lip movements and facial expressions.
- Your body language can also help us understand better.
- If it is possible, tell us what you are talking about – if we know this, it makes lipreading easier.
- From time to time, check whether we understand what you're saying and, if not, try saying it in a different way – you could even write it down.
- Please remember it’s uncomfortable for a hearing aid user if you shout - just speak a little louder than you normally do.
- If the person you are talking to is DEAF you could learn fingerspelling or some basic British Sign Language (BSL).
- If you know us well you could ask us what is best for us.
- Above all please be patient we are trying our best and we really do want to talk to you
If you take the trouble to talk to us you may find that we have lots of interesting things in common.
If you can only remember four things then I would like you to remember these if you were talking to me:
- Find a quiet, well-lit place to have your conversation. Soft furnishings, carpets and curtains help.
- Make sure that we can see your face – (we can’t lipread otherwise).
- Please gain our attention before you speak and if possible tell us what you are talking about. ( This helps us to lipread more easily).
- Please remember that it’s uncomfortable for hearing aid wearers if you shout. Speak a little more loudly and slower than normal but with your usual lip movements and facial expressions.
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