This year, Deaf Awareness Week is themed around ‘coming through it together’. We spoke with Hearing Help Essex‘s Interim CEO, Todorina who shared her experience on living with a hearing impairment.
“Organisations and individuals have collaborated over the past several years to promote and cultivate social inclusion and improving positive attitudes towards deafness and hearing impairments. Across the UK one in six people live with some level of hearing loss.
COVID-19 has presented even more challenges and traumatic experiences for many people who are deaf. Lockdowns, changing restrictions and other factors, in particular masks, have made communication even more difficult.
Trying to communicate through a face mask is immensely difficult because the quality of verbal sound is destroyed. Masks also hide the lip patterns and the facial cues of an individual which help people with hearing loss to communicate effectively, it has shown that people with hearing loss lipread without even realising.
In my role as Interim CEO of Hearing Help Essex, I encounter people with hearing loss wearing masks who struggle with the simplest daily activities. We have found that the pandemic has left many people with hearing loss in a state of hopeless despair, as it has impacted so many individuals sense of independence.
For me, before the pandemic, I managed conversations with hearing loss okay, however since I have had to stop discussions with staff in our shops. I, like others, are purposefully attempting to avoid eye contact and other physical signs of initiating conversation as verbal dialogue and hearing is muffled and can go wrong.
One example is where I am now relying on people to order things for me. I attempted to order a takeaway coffee recently, and ended up with a caramel latte, instead of a regular latte through speaking with a face shield.
The pandemic and restrictions have created huge obstacles for people with hearing loss; impacting their confidence and ability to express their right to communicate freely. Sadly, I have received many stories from people who are struggling, these are some of the stories I encounter every day:
“I have given up….”
“I do not wear my hearing aids at home any more, because I do not talk to anyone”
“I do not go out, because my hearing has deteriorated over the last year, I am scared to use public transport, I do not talk to masked strangers, as I cannot hear”
“I do not go to the shops, because I end up in embarrassing conversations”
My message is that we can get through this together; both those with hearing and those who live with hearing loss. We urge a supportive attitude without blame or faults within this difficult period. A great recommendation is downloading a text-to-speech app to help communicate with those living with hearing impairments.”