Don’t let your advice fall on deaf ears

This week (15–21 May) is Deaf Awareness Week. But what does that mean?

Read our Managing Better partner, Action on Hearing Loss Cymru’s  advice and become more deaf aware.

We’re all aware of deaf people……. aren’t we?

Actually, we’re not. Take the GP who pops their head into the waiting room to call the name of the next patient. The deaf person can’t hear. No-one comes forward so the doctor skips to the next patient on the list. The deaf person sits and waits in silence, because no one comes to tell them it’s their turn.

For the patient, it’s frustrating. It’s upsetting. And it’s not fair.

At Action on Hearing Loss Cymru we want to support the 575,500 people in Wales who are deaf or have hearing loss to live the live they choose and remove the barriers in their way.

We want deaf people to be able to see their doctor in an emergency, to get the right advice and to understand how to take the medication they’ve been given.

We want deaf people to be able to get the same jobs as hearing people and for people who develop hearing loss to be able to stay working in a job they love.

We want people who are struggling to watch the TV to easily get hold of loop systems, amplifiers or subtitles. And the list goes on…..

If people don’t get this help, research shows they’re at risk of isolation, depression and other mental health problems.

But what can YOU do to make sure you’re deaf-aware? Communicating with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss doesn't need to be difficult.

Encourage them to Tell, Ask and Share;

Tell you about their sensory loss,

Ask you for accessible information and communication specifying their individual needs, and

Share feedback on their experiences – both good and not so good.

If you’re speaking to someone who is deaf or has hearing loss, here are some useful tips;

  • Ask how they prefer to communicate. Do they lipread? Or would they prefer a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter?
  • If using a BSL interpreter, remember to talk directly to the person you’re communicating with, not the person interpreting.
  • Even if someone’s wearing hearing aids it doesn't mean they can hear you perfectly. Ask if they need to lipread or use the loop system.
  • Make sure you have face-to-face contact, away from distractions.
  • Get the person’s attention before you start speaking; wave or tap them on the arm.
  • Speak clearly but not too slowly, don't exaggerate your facial expressions and gestures.
  • Don’t cover your mouth.
  • Don't shout! It can be uncomfortable for hearing aid users and looks aggressive.
  • If someone doesn't understand you, say it in a different way. Never say ‘it doesn’t matter’.
  • Make it easy for people to contact you in their preferred way: including text message, email or video call.
  • Learn fingerspelling or some basic BSL. There’s a fingerspelling alphabet on our website 

Richard Williams is director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru. You can read more of Richard’s posts on his blog