I have suffered hearing problems since the age of five and this has become progressively worse over the years.
I am dad to three boys, aged three, nine and 11, and the two eldest often help when the family are out.
My wife Lindsey often deals with phone calls on my behalf, in addition to working full time, and has learnt some Makaton to improve the way we communicate in our household. I was a primary school teacher for seven years but had to medically retire due to ongoing Crohn’s disease and hearing loss.
I have had hearing problems since the age of 5 and frequent infections caused irreparable damage to my ears, particularly my left where there is profound hearing loss. I am sensitive to loud noises, prone to ear infections due to a suppressed immune system as a result of Crohn’s treatment, and I have had a lot of past operations including grommets and perforated ear drum repair.
Visiting shops fills me with dread. I wear bone conductor hearing aids. Before the pandemic I relied heavily on lip reading as I couldn’t wear in ear hearing aids as I was prone to infections due to a low immune system as a result of ongoing treatment for Crohn’s disease and hearing loss.
As an alternative I was provided with a temporary body worn bone conductor hearing aid whilst I await surgery for a permanent bone anchored device which will hook onto an implant attached to my skull.
My temporary body worn bone conductor hearing aid provides some help with my hearing but I still struggle with understanding what is being said if people do not speak clearly whilst I attempt to lip read.
When the pandemic arrived and compulsory mask wearing was introduced my hearing difficulties increased considerably. I totally support mask wearing as I it plays a vital role in protecting us from the potential threat of contracting Covid 19. However, a year down the line the deaf and hearing impaired community are still facing great difficulties with understanding what mask wearers are saying as lip reading is impossible and speech is muffled.
I occasionally suffer panic attacks when I go shopping because it is impossible to hear and understand what is being said.
I get the impression that many shops do not make the effort to raise deaf awareness amongst their staff. Something simple like having patience carrying a small notebook and pen would go some way to rectify this.
I am only qualified in level 1 BSL (British Sign Language) as I cannot afford to pay for the other levels, which means that other options must be available to avoid both financial and health discrimination.
Basic staff training and visual awareness, such as signs to indicate shops are deaf aware, would go a long way to helping the likes of myself feel less fearful and apprehensive about visiting shops.
I am due to undergo two lots of surgery but the waiting list is long due to the pandemic. The first surgery is to repair a perforation in my right ear drum and the second is for bone anchored hearing aids to be fitted.
I wrote this poem to highlight the challenges that both I and the deaf community face when trying to communicate with mask wearers during the ongoing pandemic.
Silent noise crisis Days, weeks, months down the line, Those in charge continue to pass it off as a whine, But rather than give us a much needed result, They ignore the deaf the ultimate insult, Implying that we not them are at fault, So mumbled the noises I hear, The jumbled sound of voices I fear, How long will this sound loss last? My worries implode has the dye been cast? Shouts become whispers passing by, Inaudible laughter feeds the tears that I cry, Lip reading gone but questions to ask, Please search for a way to modify your mask, Sign language they don't speak it, Don't expect them to understand one bit, Staff cuts, no interpreters to give you the answers you seek, My anxiety is well on the way to its peak, Your speaking to me, But your eyes are all I see, Please repeat but i know it's futile, All I know is that I've been here a while, Exasperated looks when I say pardon once more, My paranoia telling me they'll show me the door, I fall to the floor as my panic arises Pleading with the powers that be to address this crisis, For the deaf community cannot communicate with those who wear disguises. Michael Isaacs ©