We all need meaningful connection - it's part of being human. But when the ability to hear and freely express your thoughts to the rest of the world is not consistently possible, getting enough connection can be really challenging. Deaf Awareness Week (2nd-8th May 2023) is a chance to raise awareness and challenge perceptions of hearing loss and deafness across the UK.
Tips for feeling less lonely when you have hearing loss
1 - Tell someone you trust how you feel. Most of us will experience loneliness at some point in our lives, regardless of age, circumstance and background. We all experience loneliness differently. When you’re lonely it can feel like there is no one there for you but loneliness isn’t something that can always be noticed from someone’s outward appearance. It’s not that people don’t care or aren’t there for you, it’s more likely that they don’t know how you are feeling. It goes two ways: once you start reaching out to people, they will respond accordingly and your social network can start to flourish.
2 - We’re all different and we all need varying levels of social contact. If you need more opportunities to connect with people, you could try joining a club, group or sports team. It can be easier to make friends if you’re sharing an activity together. Visit the UK Deaf Sport Directory to find a sports club near you.
3 - Another idea is to get involved with your local deaf community. Most deaf clubs have Facebook pages or websites which you can use to make deaf friends in your area. It can be helpful to know other people who are going through similar experiences.
4 - Become a volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, and knowing that you're making a difference can give your self-esteem a boost, too. Get in touch with us if you're interested in volunteering!
5 - If you feel isolated from your family, try to talk to them about ways they can help you feel more included. For example, you could all learn basic sign language, or agree to have dinner together or Facetime once a month.
For more advice on loneliness and feeling connected, head to this page on our website.
How to be more deaf aware
Deafness is the third most prevalent disability, and 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. We've put together a few ways in which we can be more deaf aware, and support people with hearing loss to have meaningful connections in daily life.
The tips are based on those individuals who use the skill of lip reading, but sign language would be an incredibly positive skill to have when communicating with someone who is deaf or has a hearing impairment. However, if sign language is something you haven’t learnt yet, there are some other tips that the charity Action On Hearing Loss recommends. Comment below if include your own!
Do an activity together
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. If you're keen to get the blood pumping, you could try activities like cycling, walking, running or horse riding, or you could just chill out and do a puzzle, watch a movie or do some baking.
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.