Deaf Awareness Week 2021

Clive's 'highs and lows'

Hearing loss delivers social isolation; the humiliation of the laughter from others when you give the wrong reply; the often unintentional cruelty when you are casually ignored; the difficulty in listening to music and the radio; the difficulty in hearing the dialogue in the cinema and theatre; the failure of some people when asked to speak slower and louder.

Now the positive aspects. The gift of texting; emailing; subtitles; and the pleasure of mixing with friends and family who are sympathetic. Not forgetting all the help we receive from the dedicated professionals.

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Gill's lipreading experience

Last year people who rely on lipreading have really struggled to communicate due to the Pandemic and it has affected people all over the world…

      • Everyone had to wear masks so their lips were covered
      • Social distancing meant you were further away so even harder to hear and see the person speaking
      • Lipreading classes weren’t able to meet and virtual classes proved difficult

UK Lockdown easing and a positive way ahead:

      • Lipreading classes will begin again as soon as allowed
      • I can teach you how to recognise speech on people’s lips/faces
      • We can learn ‘visual language’ through stories, exercises, every day phrases
      • Learning is set in a friendly, calm and supportive environment

Please do get in touch for more information - lipreadwithgill@btinternet.com

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Gill’s lived experience of hearing loss and a cochlear implant

Forty years ago I lost most of my hearing when I contracted encephalitis. I was training to be a nurse at the time but after I learnt to lip read I was able to complete my training and spent almost all my nursing career working as an Ear Nose and Throat nurse and a lip reading teacher.

I retired from nursing early when my family moved to the South West but continued to teach lip reading.

I lost the remainder of my hearing very suddenly one Sunday morning in 2019. This was a very traumatic time but I was quickly referred for cochlear implant assessment and eventually offered the operation.

I was a little nervous because this was to be my first operation. But after I had been on the waiting list some months I had my operation. All went well and I was amazed when my implant was activated a month later that I could hear speech again straight away. I have now regained 98% of my hearing with the implant. Not everybody has the same experience as I did and it took some months before my brain learnt to recognise sounds and words again. I had to go through rehabilitation exercises, listening for every day sounds inside and outside the house. I was very lucky that I was able to hear people talking straight away. This doesn’t always happen so quickly.

Having a cochlear implant has completely changed my life.

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Maggie - accessing services as a Deaf person

As someone with severe hearing loss, one of my main headaches is the default means of communication for the majority of firms and organisations being the telephone.

While there are speech to text apps and it is possible to arrange to have a phone conversation using technology, this can be cumbersome and frustrating. My preferred mode of communication is by text or email unless I can see the person speaking in order to lip read. I have lost count of the number of times I have asked for a text or email response and had a follow-up phone call.

Using health services can be a challenge where the only way to get an appointment may be by phone. This has been exacerbated by the remote working required during the pandemic. With persistence and after several letters and emails I can now have a video call with my GP if necessary and have had face to face hospital consultations although with a much longer wait than if I had been able to have a phone call. Many people get round the problem by having a friend or family member to make the call for them but this is not always practical and there are matters which may be too private for that to happen. Hearing difficulties should not result in loss of independence.

Things are slowly improving thanks to lobbying by the Deaf community and their support networks as well as campaigns by organisations such as the RNID. For example, live chat facilities are appearing on lots of websites and helplines. We need to keep raising awareness and encourage use of all options rather than rely on the telephone. https://rnid.org.uk/about-us/

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Maggie – the challenges and joys of subtitles/captioning

As my hearing deteriorated, I had increasing difficulty following the dialogue on films, TV and even more sadly, at live performances. I used to love going to the theatre. Most theatres would provide a hearing aid ‘loop’ but many times the front of house staff did not know much about the system. I have encountered the following responses: sorry don’t know what you are talking about, not sure if we have one, don’t know where it is, no idea how it works, didn’t know it needed batteries and so on. The other problem is that the loop may only work in certain parts of the auditorium.

So hooray for captioning or subtitles. From 2022 it will be mandatory for 80% of  licensed TV broadcasts in the UK to be subtitled. This is not without technical challenges, especially for live TV and is currently not perfect although a step in the right direction.

Regarding theatre, live captioned performances are fantastic. Stagetext is a registered charity which provides captioning and live subtitling services to theatres and other arts venue to make their activities accessible to people who are d/Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. Like subtitled cinema, captioned performances are currently few and far between. The text screens are usually off to the side of the stage so my neck gets some exercise flicking from the text to the stage and back again. One wonderful theatre sent me a transcript of the script in advance and the National Theatre provides a very detailed synopsis for captioned performances – anticipating what might be said is a boon. New technology may help further. Before the pandemic, the National Theatre was trialling the use of special glasses which allow the user to see the captions without them being visible to others in the audience. Opera goers are used to having surtitles above the stage to translate lyrics in languages other than English so maybe, just maybe, everyone will get used to the seeing the words so every performance will be accessible.

I dream of a world where all video content will be captioned. As a bonus, friends for whom English is not their first language, tell me that they love the subtitles and there is some evidence that subtitled TV helps children learn to read!

Article:  Lights, camera, caption! Why subtitles are no longer just for the hard of hearing

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Equipment that helped my mother – support from Vision North Somerset

I was finding it getting harder and harder to speak to my mother on the telephone, she couldn’t hear every word and I was repeating myself constantly. Someone suggested contacting Vision North Somerset and I spoke to Dave who asked for some details and made an appointment for an assessment at my mother’s home when I was able to be there too.

Dave brought different types of telephones and settings for my mother to try, Dave also gave some tips to help with clarity of speech. One telephone made a huge difference and my mother was able to hear me clearly for the first time in years – we both felt very emotional and cried happy tears. Dave was also able to help my mother with an amplified doorbell and a TV aid to hear the television too. It was an amazing help and Dave is available in the future if we need any more advice or support – thank you Dave.

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“How Cazzie saved my life” – Lucy’s lived experience with her Hearing Dog

How long have you had Cazzie?

I have had Cazzie for six years, she was around 18 months when I first met her after her first year of socialising and training. I remember the lady who had socialised Cazzie in her home was very emotional. She was so pleased for me to have my Hearing Dog but sad to say goodbye to Cazzie, she made me promise I would look after Cazzie very well (which of course I have).

What type of dog is Cazzie?

Cazzie is a golden pure bred Labrador, her father was a Guide dog and her mother was a Hearing dog. Hearing dogs have their own breeding programme so they know the dog’s history.

What was life like before Cazzie?

My life was very different before I had Cazzie. I didn’t like going outside, I couldn’t hear people behind me, they would become frustrated and sometimes push me. I slept very badly and after waking from a nightmare would not be able to hear anything to either worry or reassure me so would need to get up, put on the light and then check all was okay in the house. I must admit I felt very low and anxious, I also felt lonely and isolated. Online shopping was my favourite thing to do!

Please describe life after Cazzie?

Life is brilliant.  I don’t feel sad or scared and definitely not so lonely. I love people coming up to me now and talking to me, I feel like a human being again…  I sleep better and with walking Cazzie every day I have lost weight and feel fitter.

Advice to people meeting someone with a Hearing dog?

Please ask before touching the dog and never feed them before checking with the Deaf person. Remember the dog is working. A few years ago I was shopping in Weston, when I turned around a child was sat on Cazzie as if she was a pony! The parent rushed off with the child and Cazzie was distracted. What I didn’t realise was there was a fire alarm going off which I couldn’t hear and Cazzie had been too distracted to alert me straight away. All was well in the end though.

Responsibilities and care of Cazzie?

As with any dog I have to walk Cazzie every day (at least two hours), brush her daily, not overfeed her and keep a check on her overall health e.g. teeth.

Support from Hearing Dogs and your voluntary work for Hearing Dogs?

I have great support from the Partnership Instructor who this year due to Covid has kept in touch via WhatsApp or Facetime. I can contact him anytime I need support.

I have been a volunteer for Hearing Dogs for over ten years now and love to educate people about the essential work Hearing Dogs provide.

If you would like to know more please go to  www.hearingdogs.org.uk there are puppies to see and you may like to support us in some way. Thank you.

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Nigel’s story – How he’s come through it with support from his Communicator Guide from Sense

Hello, I'm Nigel.

I wear hearing aids, have tunnel vision, have Type 1 Diabetes and have to eat gluten free food.

People speak very fast and I don't always understand what they are saying, which puts a lot of pressure on me and makes me worry… I've been so worried since Lockdown, the things on the News scare me, so I am glad my Sense Communicator Guide Jane has been able to visit all the time to make sure I am OK and explain things to me.  Jane helps me every Thursday and we chat a lot which makes me feel happier, I know I can talk to her about anything and she will always listen and help me to understand, as I have a learning disability, and low literacy, so I need help to understand what people say on the phone, when I meet them or in the letters that arrive, which I don't like opening in case they worry me.  Jane found me some free carpet and helped me move into my home, get furniture, sort out bills and lots of stuff, I am very happy with her, I understand Jane when she talks to me.  I like people to talk to which helps me cope and worry less and to do the things I need. I try to always be brave and go for it.

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