Hear My Voice | Rebecca, Collaborate Essex

Rebecca, a Healthwatch Essex Volunteer in our Collaborate Essex Forum (find out more here), is our guest blogger this month and is sharing her story and experiences below in the hope that others will learn something from her story.

I am volunteering for Healthwatch Essex in order to raise awareness for D/deaf*, hearing impaired and those suffering with a hearing loss. I struggle with understanding what people are saying and rely heavily on lip-reading. This means that I struggle with tannoys, intercoms, talking on the phone, TV programmes and cinema showings with no captions. On top of that, lip-reading is difficult if the person has a big, bushy beard and/or moustache, or has a heavy accent. Also, I find it difficult to lip-read people who are wearing sunglasses, as they hide they eyes and eyebrows which show a lot of facial expressions that are useful for me to read the conversation.

In the current climate of COVID-19, which has been a struggle for everyone, the introduction of face masks has filled me with anxiety. To cover the half of the face that I rely on for understanding communication is a massive barrier that fills me with dread. My recent visit to a Boots pharmacy had me asking the pharmacist to repeat herself several times before my daughter told me that she wanted my address. As someone who is trying to be independent and self-reliant, I find it difficult to ask others to communicate for me. However, many places are aware of such issues and have invested in clear masks to aid lip-reading of which I am thankful for.

Attempting to book an appointment with the GP has always been tough at the best of times but my current surgery is now refusing entry to patients – insisting that they phone up for a phone triage instead. Even with access to an online system, asking for a referral leads to the surgery messaging back asking you to ring them instead. However, many GPs are now able to offer appointments via video calls which is a silver lining.

This brings me on to the subject of Zoom/Skype/FaceTime etc.. For me, this tends to work pretty well when talking to one other person until concentration fatigue kicks in.

Another thing that I’ve been struggling with is social distancing in my football training. We’re all further away from each other, so instructions and speech tends to get carried away in the wind and air. Even with understanding teammates, and instructions being repeated for me, I’m still finding it difficult to suppress the emotions that it brings back of being excluded.

So, through my volunteering role at Healthwatch Essex, I’m hoping to give a perspective on the various issues that D/deaf and hearing impaired people face in different situations, and work towards finding solutions and ways to improve their experiences.

*D/deaf is a term used to cover all people with some type of deafness and includes those who are hard of hearing, partially deaf and profoundly deaf.

If you would like to share your story and experiences, click here to see how you can get involved or become a Healthwatch Essex Ambassador.