I recently asked a close friend, who is both blind and hard of hearing that if he had to have one disability, which would it be. “I would rather be without sight than without sound”, he replied without hesitation. “Being able to socialise is my lifeline. It also enables me to carry on with my interests”.
I thought long and hard about his reply. He’s right. An ability to communicate with others is at the very core of our wellbeing. When I curse my hearing disability, I think of my friend and tell myself to stop being negative.
Modern hearing aids go part of the way to alleviating our difficulty in hearing, but go into a crowded pub or restaurant or try listening to a speaker in a university amphitheatre or smaller venue, and we often end up not hearing the bulk of the speaker’s content. That’s when we can often call on the help of different forms of aids such as the pen and necklace system, very costly, which I’m about to buy. Some colleges already have such sound systems for their students to use – City Lit in particular has a superb hearing department that enables students to borrow their equipment and benefit from the course.
Local authorities can also lend equipment to people with hearing loss. For example, equipment which can enable people to turn to the T switch on their hearing aids and watch a TV channel whereby they can turn the sound up without disturbing other family members or friends.
Attendance at a Lip reading and Managing Hearing Loss class can considerably help in many ways. This is a challenge. A real one. Some people have a natural flair for picking it up. Others have to work at it. I started Jill Rose’s excellent Lip reading and Managing Hearing Loss class at the Camberley Adult Learning Centre in Surrey in September 2015. We work in pairs or groups. Silent communication with each other often creates a laugh when we misinterpret the ‘silent speaker’s’ words.
Jill chooses a wide range of subjects and provides a 'silent' presentation when we try to lip read what she is saying. For example, her presentation on Camberley Kate was fascinating. This former local figure used to take many stray dogs under her wing, walking down the A30 every morning, causing chaos on the road!
Practical tips such as choosing a restaurant with a carpet and good lighting help people with hearing loss to hear more effectively.
A dog trainer, Tania Leman, from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, with her puppy Asha, came to our group to give a talk, giving us an awareness of how profoundly deaf people can benefit hugely from the ‘doggy’ carer. Tony from Surrey Sensory Services also came to our class to talk about equipment that can improve life with hearing loss. He demonstrated some of the equipment that was really helpful.
Finally, but not least, our coffee breaks (eye breaks when we can reinforce our lip reading ability) are so pleasurable. They enable us to lose some of our frustrations with hearing loss, among people with the same disability.
Written by Ann Palmer.