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Deaf Awareness Week - a staff member's story

Deaf Awareness Week - a staff member's story
05 May 2021

This week is Deaf Awareness Week and the theme this year is aptly ‘Coming Through it Together’.  In a year like no other, Jane Ackrill, from the Urgent Care Treatment Centre, tells us about her experience of deafness and COVID-19:

"Learning to cope with and living with deafness at any time is difficult but during the pandemic I have had to deal with additional obstacles of which I had never thought. I have single-sided deafness caused by an ear infection some years ago and also suffer with tinnitus.

"Several years ago, after various assessments, I had a 'bone anchored hearing aid' fitted, this transfers sound from my left side to my good right ear through the bones of my skull. This amazing technology enables me to hear so much more although it does have its drawbacks: with only one active ear I have lost my directional hearing. This can cause difficulties in many locations: call my name in a crowded room and I will be looking around trying to see who is talking to me for ages. Another drawback is the opposite of this: when several people around me are talking I am unable to filter out their conversations and this causes me problems in concentrating on the person in front of me. I have had to compensate by honing my ability to lip read and this has become an essential resource - if I look at you intently it’s not because I’m staring or that you have something on your face, but because I’m lip-reading.

"When the Covid-19 pandemic started the Urgent Care Treatment Centre (UTC) like every other public facing department, had a large plastic screen erected in front of the reception desk. Whilst this is of obvious benefit in reducing the possible transmission of the virus, it means that there is now another barrier for me to hear patients; in addition, the current location of the UTC has poor acoustics. If this was not enough, the use of face masks has ended the benefits of lip reading.

"A speaker system is now due to be fitted to enable me to deal effectively with patients to ensure confidentiality, I have often had to go around the desk and speak to patient at a safe 2-meter distance to obtain the details required to book them in on the system.

"My colleagues in the UTC are very supportive and will help me out when it is very noisy. In addition, I have purchased a badge saying 'I usually Lip Read - please be patient' and this helps when I am asking for details for the third time.

"Unfortunately, when I become stressed, my tinnitus increases in volume so that as well as the noise in the department I can also hear a constant buzzing noise in my left ear. I have also found that my tinnitus can be activated by the alarm panel located near the reception desk – as this also buzzes it can become really distracting and annoying.

"Luckily, I have a good sense of humour and this has carried me through the very trying time of the pandemic as I am able to laugh at myself when I mishear what is said. An example of this is me giving a GP a funny look when he asked me to get an ice cream, when I asked him to repeat what he just said he requested I obtain a blood screen result!

"We have all had to face new challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic and I am lucky that I am part of a fantastic team within the UTC who help me with my own challenges – I await the day I can again lip read but, in the meantime, I try my best to cope."

Thank you to Jane for sharing your story!

For more information visit: UK Council on Deafness


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