Over 10 million people in the UK have some form of hearing loss and more than 800,000 people are severely or profoundly deaf. In the north east an estimated half a million people suffer from some degree of hearing loss.
This high prevalence means people across the north east are likely to come into contact with those with hearing difficulties on a regular basis, in everyday situations and as part of their jobs. Deaf Awareness Week aims to ensure that these encounters are as easy as possible for everyone through raising awareness about the communication needs of those with hearing loss.
For people accessing NHS services in the north east, the free NHS Help Card can be used to alert staff about a hearing problem, enabling them to better meet a patient’s communication needs.
The card features a blank panel on the front which people can fill in to say that they have hearing difficulties or any other special requirement, and can be handed to NHS staff anywhere in the region to help them to adapt their communication to support the patient.
Professor Peter Kelly, acting regional director of public health at NHS North East, said:
“It’s important to remember that it’s not always obvious that someone is deaf or hard of hearing by looking at them – and even if someone is wearing hearing aids, it doesn’t mean that they can hear you perfectly. The NHS Help Card is one way of ensuring that patients with hearing loss have the best possible experience when accessing our services across the region, by providing a simple tool to alert staff to their needs.”
If you are communicating with a deaf person there’s some simple advice that you can follow to help make sure that you understand each other:
• get the listener’s attention before you begin speaking, by either waving or tapping them on the arm
• make sure that you have face to face contact with the person that you are talking to, even if they have an interpreter with them
• speak clearly, but not too slowly
• to make lip reading easy, don't cover your mouth or exaggerate your lip movements
• if someone doesn’t understand what you’ve said, try to say it in a different way instead rather than repeating it
• don't shout - it can be uncomfortable for hearing aid users and it looks aggressive
Deaf Awareness Week also aims to highlight the importance of seeking help if you begin to experience difficulty hearing. Despite the high numbers of people with hearing loss, not all of those who begin to lose their hearing seek help immediately, with some people taking up to ten years to ask for medical advice.
“Whilst most people wouldn’t think twice about having an eye test, people can often delay seeking help about issues with their hearing.
“This can be due to the stigma attached to hearing loss or a tendency to accept it as being a natural, unavoidable part of growing old. In many cases people are literally suffering in silence, which can lead to them becoming socially isolated and suffering from anxiety and depression.
“If you find that you are struggling to hear, it’s important to remember that this is nothing to be embarrassed about, nor something which you should feel you have to simply accept and put up with. There is a wide range of help and support available - in the first instance contact your GP who will be able to test your hearing.”
The NHS Help Card can be picked up for free from GP surgeries, hospitals and walk in centres across the north east.
Kenny Helyer – communications officer
0191 210 6493 / email@example.com
For out of hours media contacts ring 0191 210 6482.
Notes to editors
Deaflink Newcastle celebrates Deaf Awareness week
Deaf Awareness Week runs from 7 – 13 May 2012. To help raise awareness of Deaf Awareness Week, Deaflink Newcastle are planning a series of events. The events will provide information on how to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing people and give information on the support available for those affected by hearing loss, and their families.
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, or are a hearing person looking for more information, please come along to the events and find out more about deafness and how it could affect you.
The events are being held on:
Tuesday 8 May - Grainger Market, from 10.30am till 12.30pm
Come and join our Deaf Chef Alex for a cooking demonstration and tasting session. Information will also be available on how to lead a healthy lifestyle, tips on exercise as well as general awareness on deafness and the support available across Newcastle.
Thursday 10 May – Boots, Eldon Square from 10.30am – 3.30pm.
Come along and get your hearing checked – for free! You can also find out general information about hearing loss and the support available across Newcastle.