Deafness and Social Isolation
According to a Government survey in 2017, the UK is considered as the loneliest country throughout Europe. For people who have severe hearing impairments or are Deaf, social isolation and loneliness can, unfortunately, feel like a regular occurrence.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we provide a range of adventure holidays for people with disabilities, and we want to promote awareness as much as we can to create a more considerate environment. In this article, we are going to explore what isolation is and why people who have hearing conditions or are Deaf can feel isolated.
Who Can Experience Feelings of Isolation?
Everyone can feel isolated at some point in their lives as isolation can occur as a result of various reasons and situations.
For example, if you have ever felt like you haven’t been adequately understood or acknowledged in a social situation, this can leave you feeling like you are ‘unrelatable’. Feeling like you are not accepted through communications can create a sense of unease within yourself. Eventually, feelings like this can push you away from people if they happen often.
For some people, these feelings of loneliness and misunderstanding can develop into more significant feelings of isolation, and in some cases, contribute to mental health illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.
For people who have disabilities, living in a world where their needs are not considered or viewed as significant, can easily lead to the feeling of isolation. Furthermore, if people cannot communicate with others in a reliable way, such as through sign language, people can feel very alone and unsupported.
Why Can Deaf People Feel Isolated?
Human interaction and support are aspects of the world which make life more comfortable and enjoyable. However, when the ability to hear and freely express your thoughts to the rest of the world is not consistently possible, this can put people in the position of isolation.
It is understood that Deafness is the third most prevalent disability on the planet. However, due to its ‘invisible’ appearance, the needs of people who have a hearing impairment or are Deaf are often overlooked in day to day life.
SignHealth charity has revealed that mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression are ‘twice as likely’ to effect deaf people, in comparison to those who are of hearing.
The Skill of Lip Reading
Many people who are Deaf or have a hearing impairment rely on lip-reading to remain in conversations with those who can hear. It has been expressed that this requires a lot of concentration to ensure they can read the situation visually as well as trying to pick up as much sound as possible. Understandably, this can use a lot of energy.
For some people who have hearing impairments or Deafness, it can also create feelings of vulnerability. Accessing relevant information can be difficult, causing anxiety, especially in times of emergency. For example, the stress of making sure you are aware of any emergency alarms despite not being able to hear. These types of worries can often leave people feeling alone and in fear in an unpredictable world without secure communications.
The British Deaf Association
Ensuring that the UK has integrated sign language into daily communications is something that the British Deaf Association are passionate about. Much of their work is to promote accessible information. They believe that by spreading awareness of British and Irish Sign Languages, we should be able to achieve equality for Deaf people over time, encouraging equal opportunities for everyone. For more information, please take a look at their website
How Can You Be More Deaf Aware?
Sign language would be an incredibly positive skill to have when communicating with someone who is Deaf or has a hearing impairment. If you would like more information about sign language, why not look at our blog on the Different Types of Sign Language in the UK which provides details on how you can access a course.
However, if sign language is something you haven’t learnt yet, there are some other tips that the charity Action On Hearing Loss recommend. The tips are based on those individuals who use the skill of lip reading.
Address the Person
Ensure the person knows you are addressing them by politely attracting their attention. Avoid doing this from an angle where they cannot see, as this can cause alarm.
Choose a Quiet Setting
If you can, try and communicate in an environment that has minimal noise. If the area is well lit, this is even better.
Make Sure Your Face Is Visible
Ensure your face can be clearly seen so your lips can be read with more ease. When you speak, don’t look away or cover your mouth.
Talk how you typically talk but make sure not to rush your speech and check that you are being understood. Try to avoid exaggerated speaking as this can make lip patterns distorted. And remember to look friendly and approachable still!
Don’t Move On If You’re Not Understood
If you haven’t communicated effectively, don’t say ‘it doesn’t matter’ and try to move on. Instead, attempt to say it in another way.
Ensure Your Voice is Down
For those who have a hearing aid, a raise in voice can be uncomfortable.
Always Speak Directly to the Person
In the situation where someone may have a sign language interpreter or another form of communication support, ensure you are addressing them and not the interpreter.
Hopefully, we have provided you with some background information on social isolation. If you have any tips or useful information, you would like to share with us, and others, concerning this article, please contact us on our social media platforms.