Hearing loss and deafness is an unseen disability. In the UK, there is approx. 10 million people (1 in 6) who have a hearing loss; approx. 70,000 of those are profoundly deaf whose primary language is British Sign Language. British Sign Language is a visual language and comprises of signs accompanied by facial expression and lip pattern.
Deafness is on the increase this is largely due to deafness being associated with age and people living longer.
Deaf people are twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. This is because it can increase isolation and make it harder to take part in everyday activities, as well as making it harder to access healthcare. Dementia has been linked to hearing loss.
Social and work situations can be both exhausting and daunting for anyone with hearing loss, as they struggle to try to follow conversations that are often in a noisy setting and all too often simply give up.
For the millions of people living with deafness or hearing loss, whole communities wearing facemasks presents a barrier to communication and a risk of being exposed to inaccessible safety information. Someone talking may not realise the person they are talking to is Deaf or hard of hearing and relying on lip-reading to communicate and the Deaf person may not even realise that they are being spoken to or warned of a risk to their health or safety.
To be able to communicate effectively the Deaf person must be able to clearly see the mouth and lips of the person they are communicating with. It is impossible to communicate effectively or accurately while wearing a facemask.
BSL Deaf People are having trouble in accessing information about the COVID 19 Pandemic; updates are not signed in BSL and therefore unaware of the health implications of the virus if they or people they share their home have symptoms or contract it. To contact healthcare providers is often inaccessible to many Deaf people.
During the Covid 19 Pandemic Interpreters Now, Health Access has come to the rescue and a BSL Deaf person confident in using their smart phone or other device can access healthcare and communication.
This is what Hilary did when she suffered a heart attack that resulted in surgery and a stent fitted during the first lockdown. Hilary had to contact her son to phone the ambulance and during her stay in hospital, there was no access to a BSL Interpreter to translate what was going on and therefore was not in control of any medical decisions.
Since her discharge from hospital she learned about Interpreters Now, Heath Access and has used her smart phone to contact her GP several times when she experienced issues with the medication she was prescribed. She feels much more supported and less anxious now she uses this valuable service.