We interviewed comedian, actress, author, broadcaster and RNID ambassador Sam Baines, who has recently released a new book called “Living with Hearing Loss and Deafness: a guide to owning it and loving it.”
Here she tells us about her new book, her own personal experiences with dating, day to day barriers faced by people who are deaf or have hearing loss, and how you can be deaf aware.
- Congratulations on your new book! It is very positive about being deaf – is this approach central to your life?
I think being deaf is positive, especially once you go through a journey of acceptance and become aware of all the brilliant additions it brings to your life, like the wider deaf community, heightened compassion and perception. It’s society that makes it difficult to be deaf in a hearing world and that’s something that can and should change.
2. What was it like writing a book about your own journey?
Tough at times! Even though I speak openly about my deaf journey this is the first time I’ve really delved into my emotions, the history and also talked about it in depth with other deaf people. I’ve learnt a lot and there has been both profound moments and hilarious ones. It’s also made me angrier about certain needless barriers that have been put in place and more determined to push for change.
3. What would be 3 things you’d like people to take away from your book?
- You are not alone.
- Employ deaf people.
- Access shouldn’t be an afterthought – it needs to be implemented from the very beginning and be at the forefront of our minds.
4. What advice would you give to someone at the beginning of their hearing loss journey?
Find your community: volunteer for a charity, follow deaf content creators on instagram and look for local deaf groups and meet ups.
Breathe and take a moment: you don’t need to know everything straight away and it’s going to be a process.
Also know that you are not ‘broken’ or ‘old before your time’. You are not being punished, being deaf won’t ruin your life.
Ask for help if you need it: surround yourself with loving friends and family, seek out therapy/wellness practises/ charities. You are not on your own in this.
5. From your own experiences, have you got any tips for someone who has hearing loss to find love?
Well first of all yay, love is awesome and I’m divorced and I still think that. Lots of deaf people are in love, so banish any thoughts of hearing loss making you unlovable or rubbish like that! Be open about your communication needs on dates. I find picking the location myself helps as I know it won’t be too loud, or too dark for lipreading. If a potential date is asking strange or uncomfortable questions about your hearing loss or deafness then unmatch with them and move on, you don’t need to educate everybody. Take your time and do what feels right for you.
6. What is the number one barrier you face in day-to-day life, either at work, travelling or socialising?
Ignorance. People or businesses with no deaf awareness make life so much more difficult. Also people who respond to my telling them I am deaf with jokes or strange questions or comments. It is great if your Grandad is deaf but I probably don’t know him and that has no bearing on the fact that you keep calling me on the phone even though I’ve asked you to email/text/zoom.
7. You must get a lot of comments on your social media channels, how do you deal with negative comments?
Mute and block. For a long time I tried to start conversations and educate but some people just like being mean. I’ve had death threats, people have sent unsettling drawings to my home address or simply said horrible things about my appearance. It’s never nice to see and I very rarely engage anymore. Life is too short.
8. How do you make your social media posts accessible to everyone?
I use captions on all of my videos, whether they are on stories on Instagram on or my feed. I try to always use alt text to describe photos too as this shows up on screen readers for blind and Deafblind people.
9. How can the general public be more deaf aware?
Speak to deaf people, work with deaf people, follow deaf leaders and creators, support deaf charities, get deaf awareness training in your workplace and read my book of course!
10. Is there anything else you would like to say or think is important?
I was originally told this book was ‘niche’ but there are 12 million of us in the UK alone who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus! We deserve to be represented, to have a voice, to be employed, to be heard, to be leaders and to be treated equally. I hope what we are seeing right now is just the start!
Read a snippet of “Living With Hearing Loss and Deafness: A guide to owning it and loving it” by Samantha Baines below.
Extract from Living With Hearing Loss and Deafness
“… Back to those stats, though: 12 million people with hearing loss and deafness? That’s about 1 in 5 people in the UK. Look around you right now. Are you at work? On public transport? In a park? (If you are alone on the loo this bit won’t work, so just picture it.) Find a group of around five people. Chances are, one of them has hearing loss, because that’s how fractions work – and also I literally just told you that. One in five . . . so if we go by percentages, one of the Spice Girls could even become deaf. If it was Victoria, do you think she’d make designer hearing aids and send me some?
Chances are, one person in your family has hearing loss or is deaf. It might even be you. Two people in my family are deaf, because we’re high-achievers. Yep, I have one hearing aid and my mum has two – she always has to go one better. You know mums! Seriously, though, it is lovely having a family member who knows what I’m going through, but when I was diagnosed with hearing loss (yes, that’s the terminology medical professionals use) aged twenty-nine, it was a bit of a shock. Not even my mother could really help me with my feelings of premature ageing and ‘otherness’. Turns out hearing loss isn’t just for people with grey hair and Werther’s Originals in their pockets – although, if that is you, I love you . . . and also please save me a sweet.”Sam Baines
The book published by Headline Home is out now, and you can find Sam on Instagram @samanthabaines .
Sign up for our email
Stay in touch with RNID and receive research updates, inspiring news stories and much more.