It’s Deaf Awareness Week – a national incentive that aims to promote social inclusion and highlight the positive aspects of deafness.
1 in 6 people are affected by hearing loss, and in the UK, more than 2 million people have hearing aids. It’s especially common as we age; 41% of over 50s have some form of hearing loss.
Communication barriers as a result of deafness can be isolating for sufferers – lack of confidence, exclusion from society, depression and unemployment are all common challenges.
Deaf Awareness Week is an opportunity for people to learn more about deafness as well as how to better support those with hearing loss.
Be deaf aware
There’s plenty you can do to support deaf people in your community and help them feel included at work and in social situations. Here’s some simple pointers to remember:
- Get their attention – Make sure you have the attention of the person before you start speaking to them. Otherwise, they may not catch what you’re saying.
- Choose the right setting – The best place for communication is one with good lighting and as little background noise as possible to hear and understand conversation.
- Use plain language – Plain language, normal lip movements and facial expressions make it easier for a person who’s deaf to understand you. Speak slowly and in a straightforward way.
- Watch your volume – Shouting can be uncomfortable for hearing aid users. Speak at a regular volume instead.
- Check they understand – Make sure you check the person understands what you’re saying. If not, try saying it again or in a different way. Never say ‘don’t worry about it’ or dismiss the conversation – this can make them feel excluded and isolated.
Try British Sign Language
In addition to speech and lipreading, many deaf people also rely on British Sign Language to communicate. It’s a combination of hand shapes and movements, facial expressions, shoulder movements and lip patterns.
If you’re interested in learning, you can find great resources online through the charity British Sign.
Are you deaf or struggle with hearing loss? Share your experiences in the comments below.