I’m delighted to have recently started work at the National Deaf Children’s Society, a charity dedicated to removing barriers for deaf children and young people. They are a great source of information and support for many families with a deaf child or young person. The passion, dedication and committment of everyone I’ve met here, has been truly inspiring.
In the UK, 6th May 2013 marks the beginning of National Deaf Awareness week. This is something that EVERYONE should be aware of. A hearing disability is not something visible to the naked eye. Yes, you may see some people wearing hearing aids, but what if that person has long hair which covers the hearing aid. Or if you’re me, and wear a BAHA which is very discreet and hidden away in ginormous hair?
As a hard of hearing person myself, I found it a little amusing that I had to attend a ‘Deaf Awareness’ course. Turns out, it was a useful refresher. I have a few colleagues with a profound/severe hearing loss who use sign language as their main form of communication. Apart from the alphabet, I don’t know any sign language! Luckily, I’ve picked up a few signs. My goal by the end of this year to hold a basic conversation in British Sign Language…wish me luck!
Deaf awareness week is all about encouraging ‘hearing’ people to understand what it’s like being deaf/not being able to hear properly. Forgive me for the following comparison, but it’s the only way I think I can convey my point. At night-time, when you walk around in the dark and you can’t see anything, that’s your experience of being ‘blind’. But when do people ever experience being deaf?! Quite possibly (and hopefully), never.
When people meet me for the 1st time, they’re amazed to find out I wear a hearing aid. I suppose this has a good and bad side. When they find out, some people, with the best intentions, ex-ag-er-rate every word they say to try to help me understand. Although they mean well, it doesn’t help. You should carry on talking at a ‘normal’ pace. Apparently, you can only lip-read 30% of a conversation (I learnt that from the deaf awareness course). But hold on…what about the other 70%? Truth it, it’s often missed. This can leave people feeling left out, alone and isolated. Not a very good feeling.
I mentioned in one my previous posts, that my family have learnt to get my attention before they speak to me (when I don’t have my BAHA on). This is very important, with all deaf people, whether they’re wearing a hearing aid or not. Even when I do have my BAHA on, I sometimes fail to hear when someone is talking to me from the other side of the room. A gentle nudge or a big wave is all takes and then I’m all ears (and hearing aid).
Noisy environments are stressful for both the deaf and hearing, but it’s even harder for the deaf. There have often been times when I’ve simply switched off in a noisy restaurant and tucked away at my food. But I miss out on conversations and can’t keep up with the jokes. I much prefer it when it’s quieter and I can see everyone!
Deafness is caused by a variety of different things, mine is caused by my Treacher Collins Syndrome. My ear canals are too narrow for sound to pass through to my inner ear. It can also be caused by frequent ear infections or trauma.
There are many institutions/organisations that need to become more deaf friendly e.g. banks, hospitals, schools, GP surgeries, dentists…just to name a few. The NDCS has set up a ‘Stolen Futures‘ campaign to fight against the government funding cuts which will damage the futures of deaf children and young people. Teacher’s of the Deaf and classroom assistants, disability living allowance/personal independence payments are all at risk. These services are important in helping young deaf children achieve their full potential. Along with securing funding, this campaign is also helping to raise awareness of deafness and it’s implications to MP’s and government officials.
Deaf children are just as clever as ‘hearing’ children, they just need some extra support to hear and communicate and the world is theirs’ for the taking.
This week, I’ll be banging on about deaf awareness week on my Facebook and twitter and telling people about my Bone Anchored Hearing Aid . What are you going to do? Please share your thoughts/experiences and help increase awareness of deafness.