Skip links

Growing up deaf

Hearing is something 9 million people live without in this country alone. For many, we could not begin to fathom the distinct loss of one of the major senses. You most likely have a sound that makes the world seem more bearable, this may be the comforting lyrics of your favourite song. Imagine that sound being diluted heavily or lost completely. This is the reality faced by so many deaf people. My sister Grace is partially deaf, she was diagnosed at birth and has worn some form of hearing technology since she was four months old. I have seen on a personal level the struggle she faces navigating the world with her disability, which is why I wanted to Speak Out about this. 

The official definition for deafness is “having partial or complete hearing loss and this can be mild or lost completely”. A misconception of deafness is not everyone has completely no hearing or uses sign language. That doesn’t mean they don’t struggle from day to day. One of the biggest challenges faced by deaf people is daily communication. Often if you are in a public place with a lot of background noise then this can inhibit a deaf person from hearing you fully. Children at school who are deaf suffer considerably as they miss words and sounds, and this can stop them from understanding certain sounds later in life. For example, that could be the slight difference between chat and cat, two completely different words but to a deaf person they are heard simultaneously. My sister Grace has trouble in noisy environments to locate sounds, and this is particularly challenging for her at school. 

For around 125,000 people in the UK, BSL (British sign language) is their main form of communication. With it now being a recognized language, it would majorly help the deaf community if we all learnt the basics to help aid communication. If you have ever been abroad, you will recognise the importance of engaging with a foreign language. This may be as simple as saying “merci” when your dinner comes; it seems justifiable to make the effort to learn a few words, and we recognise that a small gesture makes a big impact. If we can regularly make the effort to engage with another language – why not sign language? It may not seem pertinent now, but one day in the future you might help one person feel more included in the world. Hopefully after reading this article you will feel inclined to learn the basics. 

Children at school who are deaf suffer considerably as they miss words and sounds, and this can stop them from understanding certain sounds later in life. 

There is a lot more we can do for deaf people nationally, understanding their disability and making them feel wanted and welcomed. If someone is struggling to hear, consider communicating via text message or moving to a quieter area or speaking clearly and not obstructing your mouth so they can lip-read. Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is a profoundly deaf actress (and winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2021) recently talked about the struggles of “Dinner Table Syndrome”. When people are laughing or having a conversation, she often feels completely lost to what is being said. We can all play our part to make sure no one feels this way. 

Deaf people aren’t really portrayed in the media at great lengths, and if they are portrayed it is often the hearing loss that defines the character. Rose Ayling -Ellis appeared on strictly as herself from this she proved that deaf people really can do anything they put their mind to and aren’t defined by being deaf.  

The topic of deafness is not widely taught among UK schools. If deafness was given 15 minutes in an assembly, then fellow young people will be able to understand what their deaf peers face and how they can help in society.  

Sadly, many services are not suitable for members of the deaf community who rely on facial expressions and lip-reading in order to make conversation. Especially since the pandemic, often services are over the phone and for someone who is deaf this is a massive set-back as they won’t be able to understand fully. 

By Erin Hickey

Leave a comment