This week is Deaf Awareness Week 2020, and the theme this year is "Acquired Deafness". Did you know there are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK? Wow, I did not know that.
The definition of acquired deafness is “The loss of hearing that occurs or develops some time during a person's life but was not present at birth.”
This is exactly what happened to me on the 31st of January 2017. I suddenly, and without warning, lost complete hearing in my left ear. The details of that day are not important right now, instead, I wanted to tell you about some moments that have happened to me since my hearing went AWOL.
One of my all-time favourite movies is Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. Have you seen it? Hilarious. If you have not seen it, then watch it (Netflix); it is a good laugh.
I bring this movie up because, like these two characters, living with hearing loss (and blindness) does present a comedy of errors at times.
There was the time I had my hair cut; my hairdresser knew I had trouble hearing, especially over the noise of the hairdryer, and bless her, she was incredibly good at managing conversations with me. On one occasion though, she forgot, and asked me “have you been watching anything interesting on television lately?”; to which I replied “yes, I’m meeting my friends for lunch later”. She was in tears.
Then there was the time I met a friend, whom I have not seen in a while, for coffee. The coffee shop was noisy, and as such I found it difficult to hear. I do not always tell people I have trouble hearing, but on this occasion, the situation got a little out of hand. As she was talking to me, I kept turning my head slightly so my good ear could pick up her voice, but every time I turned my head, she would also look in the direction my head was turning… this time I burst out laughing and had to tell her what was going on.
And then there was the time when I realised that looking intently at someone’s lips whilst they were speaking might be considered inappropriate, especially if they’re not aware of your hearing issues.
These are all funny moments, and I usually laugh along, but they are also, at the same time, incredibly stressful and embarrassing moments.
So how can you help a person who is hearing challenged? Here are some tips:
Face the person while you are talking, do not turn away
Speak clearly without shouting
Repeat yourself when necessary
Never say “it doesn’t matter”
If the person does not understand you, don’t give up
Write it down or draw a picture
Speak one at a time, do not talk over each other
Keep your mouth visible
Smile and relax
Do not speak too quickly or too slowly
Next time you encounter someone with hearing problems, please do not say “never mind”, “it doesn’t matter” or “turn your hearing aid up”; just ask or say twice please.