Deaf awareness week

What is it?

There are around 50,00 deaf people in the UK. This includes both young people and older people. Deaf Awareness Week is an annual event which seeks to bring awareness and support to these members of the community. This year the week takes place between the 4th and 9th of May.

The theme for 2022 is ‘deaf inclusion’, which seeks to explore ways in which deaf people (who often feel ignored and excluded) can be made to feel included. As a person who has been partially deaf from birth I thought I could talk a bit about this from my own perspective, and how awareness is important.

What does it mean to be deaf?

Being deaf can take so many different forms and is not necessarily the stereotypical depiction of not being able to hear at all, often the hearing loss may be only minor and may not at first be noticeable to other people. From experience, people will sometimes appear slightly agitated/confused when being asked to repeat something that wasn’t heard. I would say a good rule of thumb with anybody is to remain polite and patient even if you don’t know that the person is deaf.

How can you help?

It can be hard to communicate that you have hearing loss especially when it is not as noticeable. Deaf people are often widely misrepresented as totally mute and/or using sign language. Whilst this is the case with complete hearing loss, most deaf people can speak, and hear and don’t use sign language. Some wear hearing aids but others don’t, this is why it is important to try and have a sympathetic approach to interacting with new people. If you realise maybe they are having trouble hearing you, treat them kindly and with respect.

For those who do communicate using sign language, it again is important that you remain patient, and although you may not be able to understand what they are trying to say there are ways in which you can interact. One of these is visually through writing, this may take a little more time but it ensures that this person still feels heard and understood.

From personal experience, I have always found people’s questions about hearing aids amusing. For the most part, hearing aids aren’t as widely understood as something like glasses despite both being sensory aids. Part of being aware is having curiosity and asking questions but also about education and trying to better understand things – even if you have no personal experience. That’s how we become better people, by recognising gaps in our own knowledge and addressing them. However, curiosity must also come with a level of caution. Some people may feel uncomfortable with lots of questions, which is fine.

Hearing loss is something a lot of people struggle with, some might not even realise they do. With this in mind, it is important that you are accommodating to these people and make them feel safe and treat them the same as you would treat anybody else.