According to a government survey in 2020-2021, around 3 million people in the UK feel lonely. For people who have severe hearing impairments or are deaf, social isolation and loneliness can, unfortunately, feel like a regular occurrence.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we provide a range of adventure holidays for people with disabilities and are always working to promote awareness and create a more considerate environment. If you want to broaden your understanding of disability-related issues, learn more with us about what isolation is and why people who have hearing conditions or are deaf can feel this way.
Who Can Experience Feelings of Isolation?
Everyone can feel isolated at some point in their lives as a result of various reasons and situations.
Feeling like you’re not socially accepted can create a sense of unease within yourself. 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’. 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.
This can be especially harmful for people who have disabilities, as living in a world where their needs are not considered or viewed as significant can easily lead to feelings 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 a position of isolation.
It is understood that deafness is the third most prevalent disability on the planet. However, due to its lack of ‘visible’ symptoms, 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 affect deaf people in comparison to people without a hearing impairment.
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. 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 being unable to hear. These worries can often leave people feeling alone and afraid in an unpredictable world without secure communications.
Supporting People with Deafness or Hearing Impairments
These aspects of social isolation can seem overwhelming, but thankfully, they are significantly reduced with a robust support system and deaf awareness.
The British Deaf Association
Ensuring that the UK has integrated sign language into daily communications is something that the British Deaf Association is passionate about. Much of their work is dedicated to promoting 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.
So now that you know the importance of being supportive, what are some ways you can be more deaf aware?
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, explore our blog on the different types of sign language in the UK, which provides details on how to 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 recommends. The tips are based on those individuals who use the skill of lip reading.
Inclusion with Physical Activities
Never underestimate the power of physical communication and touch. Sometimes, the best way to make someone with hearing impairments feel included is by participating in fun physical activities together.
For example, why not explore the adventure holidays for people with hearing impairments at Calvert Exmoor? Activities like cycling, abseiling, or horse riding are excellent ways to get the blood pumping for guests of all abilities!
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!
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 a 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. Please contact us on our Facebook page if you have any tips or useful information you would like to share with us!
For those unfamiliar with sign language, it is not uncommon to assume that there is only one universal signing system. However, this is not the case. It is believed that anywhere between 138 to 300 distinct forms of sign language are currently used worldwide.
Here at Calvert Exmoor, we understand how vital different forms of communication are for human connection in general. No matter your level of ability, learning about sign languages could be life-changing for many people.
Why is Sign Language Important?
Sign language is a language system used mainly by those who have hearing impairments or are deaf. It is essential that this form of communication exists as people with hearing impairments can experience social isolation due to their disability.
Unlike the spoken word, where verbal speech is the main form of interaction, sign language uses the below as the primary ways of communicating:
- Body language
- Facial expressions
Other Ways of Including People With Hearing Impairments
As mentioned above, people with hearing impairments often experience significant isolation. Communication through touch and sight are key aspects of inclusion and can be explored in other ways than sign language.
For example, at Calvert Exmoor, we offer many accessible activities for deaf and hard of hearing guests that provide excellent opportunities for interacting with sense of sight or touch. Some of these opportunities include:
- Adaptive cycling
- Horse riding
- Zip wiring
Guests can expect a focused, attentive approach from our fully-qualified instructors during their stay. Many more exhilarating and deaf-friendly activities are available to encourage social inclusion for a loved one.
Why Are There So Many Forms of Sign Language?
Similar to verbal language, ways of accessible communication develop within cultures and groups of people unique to the area they live in. Therefore, these interactions will be different between communities.
Most sign language systems don’t align with the spoken languages of the environment and tend to be separate language systems.
A good example is the difference between American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL). Both the spoken languages of these communities are the same in that they verbally speak in English, although minute differences exist, for example, the difference between sidewalk and pavement.
However, ASL and BSL share some significant differences as they are in different areas of the world.
How Sign Language is Developed
It is not unusual for sign language to advance from a ‘parent sign language’. An example that highlights this can be found in the similarities between ASL and French Sign Language (LSF).
Despite the geographical distance, they bear resemblance due to the introduction of the ‘methodical sign system’ produced in France during the 18th century. Laurent Clerc, a French teacher who was deaf, shared this system with American deaf education and created what is now known as the American School for the Deaf.
Regional Variations of Sign Language
Similar to accents in spoken language, accents and dialects also exist within sign language. As sign language is more of a secluded form of communication, there tends to be a considerable variation between regions. This is especially prevalent in Britain, where sign language varies between towns and cities across the country.
What Forms of Sign Language Are Used in the UK?
Below are the most common forms of sign language used in the UK. As previously mentioned, different regions will slightly differ according to their dialects.
- British Sign Language (BSL)
- BSL taught through spoken Welsh
- Irish Sign Language (ISL)
- Sign Supported English (SSE)
We go into more detail about these variations below.
British Sign Language (BSL)
The type of sign language used the most in Britain is British Sign Language, also known as BSL. Research in 2011 suggested that BSL is used by around 151,000 people in favour of other sign languages.
According to the BSL website, BSL has its own syntax and grammatical structure unrelated to the English spoken language.
In 2003, the government officially regarded BSL as a minority language after a thorough campaign. As a result, according to the BSL website, awareness of deaf communications has increased, and BSL is recognised in the same way other minority languages are, such as Welsh and Gaelic.
If you want more information about British Sign Language, the BSL website provides further guidance and support. You can also discover how you can take a course in BSL.
Influence in Wales
A more recent advancement is a project by Mudiad Meithrin in Wales, which is prepared to teach young students BSL through the spoken language of Welsh as opposed to English.
Irish Sign Language
Also known as ISL, Irish Sign Language is mainly used in the Republic of Ireland but is also exercised in Northern Ireland. BSL is also commonly used in Northern Ireland.
ISL tends to have similarities to French Sign Language but has a bit of inspiration from BSL too. Like BSL, it doesn’t bear a resemblance to spoken English or Irish.
However, an intriguing aspect of ISL is its gendered sign language. Due to some male and female schools being separate in Ireland, ISL has diverged into two different sign languages.
There is heavy debate within Irish deaf communities regarding the dominance of men’s sign language, and, like with most forms of language, it is likely to evolve.
Sign Supported English (SSE)
Sign Supported English (SSE) is not a language on its own. The signs used are the same as those used in BSL. However, the signs are expressed in the same grammatical order as spoken English.
The key use of SSE is to accompany the learning process of those who have hearing impairments and are learning English grammar as well as sign language.
Why is Makaton Important?
Makaton makes use of graphic symbols, hand signs and spoken language as support for those who may need assistance with communication or have learning difficulties. It could assist the learning development of someone who has down syndrome, a neurological disorder or language impairment, for example.
We actually have more guests who use Makaton than we do BSL at Calvert Exmoor, so our staff have training in and experience with this unique method of communication.
If you require more information about the adventure breaks we offer and are interested in our holidays for deaf adults, please feel free to contact us on 01598 763221 or email us at email@example.com.