Deafness some facts!

Deaf (capital D) – usually reiterates to a person who is born Deaf, uses British Sign Language (BSL) or Sign supported English (SSE) and may consider themselves part of a cultural minority.

Deaf (small d) or deafened – usually reiterates to a person who learnt to speak before they lost all or most of their hearing. They can feel lost between the hearing and the Deaf worlds!

Hard of Hearing – usually reiter to a person who has lost some of their hearing but still has some useful hearing remaining.

Hearing – reiter to a person who has hearing within normal limits.

Many people think deafness is simply an inconvenient sign of old age in their friends and family.

1 in 7 people (about 9 million in the UK) are affected and many of them are born Deaf or become hearing impaired through illness or injury.

Nearly 15% of the population in the UK has some degree of hearing loss (1 in 7 people)

For every 10,000:

10 will be born substantially deaf

20 will have become substantially deafened

100 will be partly to severely deaf / deafened

600 will be hard of hearing to partially deaf / deafened

800 will be slightly hard of hearing

BSL is the first or preferred language of about 70,000 people in the UK

About 2 million people wear hearing aids (and maybe another million would benefit from doing so)

Almost all deaf / deafened and hard of hearing people rely on lip-reading to some extent

Many combine signs from BSL with English to communicate ie use Sign Supported English (SSE)

Unlike easily recognized disabilities deafness is usually unseen or hidden and because of this Deaf or Hard of Hearing people often have to put up with impatience or misunderstanding.

D / deaf and Hard of Hearing people are not stupid and resent being treated as if they were!

Due of lack of Deaf awareness people with various degrees of hearing loss face daily discrimination, exclusion from services and exclusion from social contact.

Also Deaf and Hard of Hearing people have extremely limited access to information and opportunities for developing social inclusion.

Deafened people are usually looked upon as merely hearing impaired.

Losing your hearing as a child or as an adult can be devastating and may have an acute psychological impact on that person.

People who are Deaf and deafened and their friends and family have to adapt to live in the hearing world!

This is a difficult process and the help to do this is not always apparent.

A person suffering hearing loss may experience:

Shock and denial – especially if the loss is sudden.

Isolation and withdrawal.


Loss of confidence.

Avoidance of social and public events.


Grief and a sense of loss.

Fear of the future.

Diminishing self esteem.


You may need to provide special equipment for deaf people working for or visiting you such as; vibrating fire alarm pagers, flashing / amplified phone equipment, text phones, personal video players for set tours, etc.

What should be done to help?

BSL users should be provided with an interpreter at meetings etc!

BSL users and Non BSL users should be provided with either –

1. a Palantypist.

2. a note taker (it is impossible to watch an interpreter and take notes at the same time!)

Use a communication support worker.

You have a duty of care under the equity act to train your staff in Deaf awareness and BSL requirements if they have contact with the public.


Training staff to BSL level one is like training them to have a signing age of about the equivalent of a 4 year old year old – it is not enough!

(How would you feel being communicated with at business meetings or public events if the language level was that of a four year old?)

BSL Level 2 is a basic conversation level!

BSL Level 3 is the standard at which Social conversations can take place fluently!

BSL Level 4 is the standard at which technical / work conversations can take place fluently!


For hearing aid users –

Fit a hearing loop system in every place where public announcements or information is being provided.

Have it professionally maintained and serviced at at least an annual basis by someone who understands how to maintain and adjust these systems! (See notes at the end on sound systems and their set up requirements!)

SPECIALIST TRAINING! – Learn how to use it!

If the microphone is not used the hearing aid receives no sound!

If the microphone battery is flat the hearing aid receives no sound!

If the microphone is switched off the hearing aid receives no sound!

If the people do not know the loop system is there thy will not know to switch their hearing aids to use it!

For those who lip-read –

BEST – Use a lipspeaker!

& Provide a note taker

(it is impossible to watch a lipspeaker and take notes at the same time!)

SECOND BEST -SPECIALIST TRAINING! Train your staff how to present clear lip patterns!

Ensure only one person speaks at a time

Ensure all people speaking are facing the Deaf person before they speak.

Ensure good lighting is provided at the front of the people speaking.

Do not stand in front of bright or distracting backgrounds. (visual noise!)

Check that the Deaf person is watching before you start speaking.

Train people!

Training is not a one off thing it needs to be done on an organized regular basis

You need to provide basic essentials training for everyone who is likely to present to any group of people!


Do not shout as this will distort your lip patterns – speak clearly!

Sentences are easier to lip-read than single words.

If the person is lip-reading and does not understand a word or phrase – rephrase what you said. (allow / encourage interruptions)

Avoid exaggerated facial expressions.

Use gesture where it is relevant.

Keep your head still and do not walk about.

Do not turn away while you are talking.

Do not hide your mouth movements behind your hand or a piece of paper / book.

Do not speak whilst looking down at a book.

SPECIALIST TRAINING! – How to use the microphone!

Introduce the subject first.

Reduce other noise to a minimum.

Write things down so that Deaf people know what you are talking about – your talk, discussion points etc. Give it to them well in advance!

Use an OHP / projector


Use power-point but do not go over the top!

Too many clever effects are distracting and tiring to look at!

Do not forget to seek advice – it is part of the Coaching Concepts role to help you!


Encourage Deaf people to take part.

Learn to use sign language!

Wherever a standard script is being used a recording of BSL provided by a professional interpreter with English subtitles should also be provided!

What does an interpreter need?

A place to stand that is well lit from the front with no distracting background.

This place must be visible from where the Deaf people will be sitting and not too far away.

A large print copy of the information.

Something to put the copy onto that is not going to be in the way of their signing space – good strong music stand is ideal.

All the relevant word in plenty of time!

Two minutes before is not acceptable!

Two days before is acceptable.

A week before the event is ideal.

Time – to rearrange seating or their working position to enable them to work to the best advantage of the Deaf people. They are the experts – use their knowledge!

Your workplace audit.

1. Where are all the announcements, notices, etc. given out from are they clearly visible or do D / deaf people need specified seating areas?

2. Do you have a public address system and a hearing aid loop?

3. Where are the microphone stations? Are they always used by speakers? Can people who lipread see the speaker clearly?

4. Where are the notices to say you have a loop system?

5. Do you have and do you stick to a meeting or service agenda and provide the relevant information in accessible formats for all D / deaf people?

6. Identify obstacles to seeing clearly in your work place. How do you avoid speakers being hidden by lecterns etc.

7. Is the speaker always facing the people?

8. What problems can you identify with light? Are there situations where light comes from behind the speakers head? Have you good lighting from the front?

9. Who knows British Sign Language, can anyone use the deaf-blind manual alphabet?

10. If a Deaf person comes to your workplace where would you go for help? How would you get a professional interpreter?

11. What is the name of your local or professional Deaf support organization?

12. Would you be willing to allow a Deaf person to take a leading part in your meetings, in Sign Language?

13. Do you know which members of your staff are hard of hearing or use hearing aids?

14. Has anyone stopped coming to your meetings / talks / services because they can not follow them anymore?

15. Have you got a portable loop or other communication aid to help you?

16. Can you gain access to a private room to talk to a hard of hearing person in care?

Sound Reinforcement systems

There is a massive difference between a sound reinforcement system which is provided to help those with hearing impairment to be able to hear and understand and the local musician bands amplification system which is designed to make a very loud noise reach through a given area projected from the stage.

In many cases where sound systems are installed this simple fact is not understood and advice on sound systems is provided by people who want their music / singing to be directed like their favorite pop stars.

The use of a sound reinforcement system requires the correct use of a microphone and the correct placement of speakers so that the sound is not detected or reflected by projecting it at hard surfaces.

The incorrect use of microphones is a very common problem. Over-driving a microphone by placing it too near the mouth or speaking / singing too loud into it will cause the microphone to overdrive and produce distorted sound. It also can cause a hearing aid to overdrive and cut specific sounds automatically which can cause a strange on off effect! It is essential for good hearing that all users of microphones are trained how to use them correctly if this common error is to be avoided.

The setting up of speaker systems is just as important, for your local band having as many speakers as possible pointing over the heads of the crowd is the usual format! This is disastrous for hearing impaired people as it provides lots of reflected noise and cross wave interference. A system designed for improved hearing will provide speakers that are directed into open space, never towards a hard surface so that sound is absorbed evenly through a group of people. This is facilitated in places like churches by the careful positioning of speakers so that they point down into the body of people which allows the people themselves to become the absorbent surface that stops reflected noise issues.