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People with deafness and hearing loss still feel stigmatised, shows charity poll

14 May 2018

During Deaf Awareness Week (14 to 20 May 2018) leading UK charity Action on Hearing Loss is focused on tackling the stigma that many still feel is attached to deafness and hearing loss.

Despite 11 million people living in the UK with some form of hearing loss or deafness, a poll conducted by the charity found that nearly nine out of ten respondents felt that there was still stigma about the condition. Over a thousand people took part in the social media poll conducted by the charity, sharing their stories and experiences.

Many respondents highlighted how deafness and hearing loss was still something many felt was appropriate to make fun of, and that people still feel the need to hide their hearing aids.

One respondent Sandra Davidson, who has slight hearing loss, said: “Yes, there is a stigma. People are very sympathetic to those with impaired vision, and do not readily make jokes about the condition. However, for some reason the moment hearing impairment is apparent some have no compunction in making snide remarks, or saying “pardon” and grinning thinking they have said the funniest thing ever. I only have slight loss but have witnessed the prejudice against those with greater hearing loss. There are still some ignorant people who equate hearing impairment with lack of intelligence.”

Paul Breckell, Chief Executive at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “The results of this poll show that we still have a really long way to go. It’s shocking that 89% of the 1,122 of people who responded felt that they were being stigmatised and discriminated against, and many described instances of being teased about their deafness – something that would be unthinkable for other conditions.

“The fact that many also spoke about the emphasis on ‘discreet’ hearing aids and hiding them demonstrates that there is still embarrassment about wearing them, which is in this day and age is shocking.

“That’s why this year during Deaf Awareness Week we want to smash some of the stereotypes people have about deafness and hearing loss, by making this week a celebration of those living with the condition and, ultimately, prove that this kind of stigma has no place in 2018.”

The charity is marking Deaf Awareness Week by running a campaign called ‘I definitely can’, highlighting amazing individuals with deafness and hearing loss, having its Instagram taken over by vlogger Chessie King and encouraging people with hearing aids to show the charity ‘How do you wear yours?’ by asking them to post images of their hearing aids. The week will culminate in a fully inclusive comedy night headlined by hearing aid user Stewart Lee and other comedians, most of whom have a connection hearing loss.

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Notes to editors

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people living with deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.

Case studies and spokespeople are available on request.