Health in the Workplace

How Covid-19 will affect the hard of hearing

By Tom Kane (pictured), owner of DeafnAble

frustration and isolation made me despair and the feeling of being left out of day to day conversation was something I hadn’t realised how my predicted hearing loss through aircraft noise, would affect me. Even though I was provided with free hearing aids, it was


an incredible learning curve re-integrating myself back into the community. Over a period of two years from being given my hearing aids, with the support of the NHS, Social Services and most of all the support from my lipreading teacher Ralph Hawley, I was gradually beginning to get my confidence back in social situations. Some may say I was a better cricket umpire? I realised during this time, I didn’t have a future in aircraft engineering

and that my future was in helping my new community, those of us who have lost our natural hearing. In 2005 I qualified as a lipreading teacher, I was the lipreading teacher for the Workers Education Association in Shropshire for a number of years until it became obvious that under the unrealistic rigid constraints of the OFSTED teaching directives, I was unable to be flexible enough to guide and support those who had recently lost their hearing, and their partners.

‘As a hearing impaired person not only do I need to lipread you, but I also look at your body language and your facial expressions’

Deafnable rose out of the ashes, with it my goal to make the hidden

disability of hearing loss become more acute in society. We should talk about it more - we might know someone who has lost their hearing, but do we know how to help them? As we are coming to terms with the pandemic and the use of face

masks in all aspects of our daily lives, I should point out that one area of our community will be more isolated from society. As a hearing impaired person not only do I need to lipread you, but I

also look at your body language and your facial expressions. I also try and anticipate what you are likely to say by taking in the situation occurring around me, such as the doctors’ receptionist, the waitress in the restaurant, even the person behind the till in the supermarket - these are all needed to help me communicate with you. If you take into consideration all of the above and consider that you

can only lipread about 30% of the English language, there is going to be a lack of communication when it comes to talking to someone who has lost some or all of their hearing while wearing a face mask. There are 11 million of us in the United Kingdom (and that number is

expected to climb to 15 million in the next couple of years), so there is a very good chance the person you are talking to has a hearing impediment, but they are embarrassed that they cannot hear you and will not tell you. There is a misconception that hearing impairment is an "old persons" ailment but this is so far from the truth – in fact, the fastest growth in deafness in the community is the 35-50 age group. If you are trying to communicate with someone you suspect is a

deafened person, you are allowed by law to remove your facemask so that person is able to lipread you. Additionally, if you live with a person who has lost their hearing you may remove your mask in a public place so that your friend /partner can lipread you when you relay what someone else has said, for example in busy shop. If you are hearing impaired wear a badge explaining that you are

deafened (available at or a hidden disabilities lanyard (available at so the speaker may realise that you may not be able to hear them while they’re wearing a face covering in these difficult times.

October 2020 CHAMBERLINK 53

hen I found that I was having real difficulty in understanding normal speech, at home, at work, and in my everyday life, the feeling of


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