Are you hearing? If yes, have you ever imagined what it’s like to have a hearing loss?

As you may know, I’ve been learning British Sign Language  and during one session, the teacher and I wanted to raise some deaf awareness, by showing the hearing people in our group an insight into what it’s like to have a hearing loss.

The challenge

At the start of the session, the tutor told the group that all hearing people will have to wear headphones for the whole two hours. They had to wear not only one set of inner earplugs, but big, sound cancelling headphones on top of them too!

There were mixed feelings and reactions from the group. Some were petrified, others were intrigued and up for the challenge. Of course, us deafies in the group were ecstatic! We were interested in seeing how they would cope if they had a hearing loss.

Learning in silence

While we were learning sign language, it was surprisingly quiet throughout the whole session, which made us realise they probably talk a lot during the sessions when they’re not supposed to! Everyone had such concentrated faces and eyes like owls! It was also motivating to see them focusing on their sign language more so they could understand and communicate with each other. It really brought to light how much we have to concentrate every day, 24/7!

The break

Usually in the break, everyone takes the opportunity to chat about their lives and work, but when they realised they had to keep their headphones on, it felt like an awkward atmosphere! Try attempting to sign whilst holding a cup of tea and a biscuit! When I meet my deaf friends for drinks, we always end up holding each other’s drinks whilst the other signs!

The verdict

At the end of the two hour session, they were allowed to remove their headphones. The amount of sighs of relief that I could hear was astonishing! They seemed to find it very difficult to cope with. Here is what some of them thought:

  • “It was very isolating even though we were in the same room”
  • “There was no background noise which we are so used to hearing, it made me realise how alone I felt”
  • “At the break there was no chatter or laughing, as usual you are alone with your own thoughts taking over”
  • “It made me feel paranoid and self-conscious, almost like the first session when we didn’t know each other”
  • “It made it easier to focus and concentrate on the session”
  • “I felt a bit panicky and kept looking round at everyone else, who all seemed to be coping very well”
  • “It took a lot more concentration to keep up with the conversations in the room!”
  • “Using the headphones and ‘hearing’ from a deaf persons perspective gives a whole new insight”
These are some of the sounds they said they would miss if they lost their hearing:
  • Music
  • Birds singing
  • People laughing
  • Radio
  • Voices
  • The ocean
  • Phone calls
  • Cats purring

Interesting! It’s so important to raise awareness about deafness, as it’s an invisible disability. People don’t often think about the emotional and psychological impact that hearing loss can have on individuals.

To experience more about what it’s like to have hearing loss, listen  to the Hearing Loss Simulator

Or try one of these Deaf & Hard of Hearing Challenges for people without hearing loss, by Phonak hEARo Jessica Flores