Jamie Miller was born with a severe bilateral hearing loss and wears hearing aids. He is a member of the CSP DisAbility Network and UK Deaf Healthcare Professionals Network
The term ‘audism’ isn’t widely known but it means discrimination or prejudice against individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. I was born with a severe hearing loss and believe that audism still occurs in healthcare, often due to a lack of awareness and education. I now work successfully in the hearing world but I have faced challenges in the past and want to do all I can to improve the situation.
The pandemic has been particularly difficult for those with a hearing loss. A deaf friend recently told me he had attended an audiology appointment and was confronted by a very impatient receptionist, behind a screen and wearing a mask, who was clearly cross that she had to repeat herself.
Many of us rely on lip-reading and facial expressions, so face masks rob us of valuable information when we communicate.
I recently conducted an experiment and counted the number of times in one day I had to prompt individuals to take down their mask so I could understand them: six. This equates to over 2,000 times per year, which is a sobering statistic and hard work.
While we still need to observe social distancing, we sometimes need people to remove masks to allow lip-reading. We should also encourage the use of clear masks to help both patients and healthcare staff with a hearing loss.
But audism isn’t new. I believe there is a lack of deaf awareness in our society and often audism isn’t deliberate. It can have an adverse impact on individuals so it’s vital that we improve our awareness and take steps to address the problem.
Tiny changes can lead to remarkable results and a more inclusive and diverse workplace.
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