This week, 2-8 May, marks Deaf Awareness Week which highlights the impact of hearing loss on everyday life and aims to increase visibility and inclusion within our communities.
The UK Council on Deafness says deafness comes with a number of challenges, with many feeling like their struggles are unseen.
As part of DAW2022, Royal Bolton Hospital’s recently appointed Deputy Divisional Director of Operation for Diagnostic and Support Services, Laura Brookes, is sharing her unique story.
“As we celebrate national deaf awareness week, I thought I would spend a little time reflecting on how I have settled into the Trust as a new member of staff with a hearing impairment.
“My name is Laura Brookes and I have joined Bolton FT as the new Diagnostic and Support Services Deputy Divisional Director of Operations.
“I have been really blown away by the inclusive and proactive way my hearing impairment has been addressed and accepted by my wonderful colleagues.
“Working throughout the pandemic has been particularly difficult for me to navigate as a hearing impaired person as I underestimated quite how much I lip read to complement my hearing aids.
“The use of masks, although a positive tool to help curtail the spread of the pandemic, have also made communication more challenging as I am sure many of you will have witnessed when working with your patients and colleagues.
“My hearing has always been part of who I am, but I try not to allow my disability to define me. So imagine how it feels to have to walk into a meeting or a room and introduce yourself as a deaf person first and foremost.
“During the pandemic I have learnt that it is easiest to ask people to pull their mask down if they are speaking directly to me at the first available opportunity to avoid awkwardness or confusion. For someone who has lived their entire life and strived to avoid drawing attention to my hearing, it is a new experience to now highlight a disability within minutes of meeting people.
“I have worked in the NHS for more than 17 years in a really wide range of roles and I have been met with all sorts of misconceptions about my hearing and also my capabilities solely due to the fact I wear hearing aids.
“My advice to you, if you come across a patient or colleague with a hearing impairment, is to ask what they may need rather than assume.
“My line manager and I had a really refreshing conversation about what specific needs I had in relation to my hearing and we were able to talk about practicalities before I took up my post.
“Enhancing a deaf person’s communication experience might be as simple as moving to a quieter area, taking a step back to help with social distancing, lower your mask, or using the ‘captions’ options on Microsoft Teams’.
“Be aware if you cover your mouth with your hand while speaking as this can limit lip reading and muffle the sound, and please do not exaggerate your mouth movements (it’s really distracting)!
“Something else to remember is that speaking louder may not necessarily make you easier to understand as this can distort the clarity of your speech so work on speaking clearly rather than shouting.
“One of the common assumptions is that deaf/hard of hearing people are unable listen to music. This made me laugh as I have what can only be described as an ‘eclectic’ taste in music!
“Although I have only been at Bolton a few short weeks, I already can see that there is a real commitment to inclusivity and I feel at home already.
“I can’t wait to see (and hear) what we can achieve together.”
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust is committed to delivering high-quality, patient-centred, and accessible services, while as an employer providing a positive, inclusive and fair workplace free from discrimination.
To discover more about how you can support friends, family, or colleagues with deafness, please visit the UK Council on Deafness at ukcod.org.