Wed, Nov 24, 2021 1:00 PM

Hearing issues spark call for kindness

David Smith has experienced hearing issues because of people wearing masks and is calling for more patience. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Paula Hulburt

A Blenheim man with severe hearing problems is urging others to be more tolerant as mask wearing takes its toll on people’s patience.

David Smith has congenital hearing loss and must wear a hearing aid.

But mandatory mask wearing is making it difficult for him, and other members of the deaf community, as voices are muffled.

He says he has bore the brunt of some people’s impatience when he can’t hear what’s being said.

“It [wearing a mask] makes it hellish difficult as you can’t hear people properly.

‘I’d like to others be a bit more respectful of people with hearing difficulties and see it from our point of view.”

The former typesetter was born with hearing problems and has relied on a hearing aid most of his life.

He has not let it stand in his way and is a keen musician, working as a pipe organist as St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Blenheim.

Living life with deafness means David has also learnt some lip reading but does not rely on it solely.

“I can do a little lip reading which helps but people wearing masks obviously makes that impossible.

“Of course, I’d rather people wear masks but sometimes I’m finding shop assistants are not very patient.

“The thickness of the masks can make a difference too.

“My hearing aid is an internal one, so people don’t always see it. People wearing the external hearing aids are having problems as they pull off with the masks.

“A bit more kindness would be great.”

Chief executive from the National Foundation for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Natasha Gallardo says the hard of hearing community is being denied equitable communication channels that others have.

“It is an incredibly challenging time for anyone who is hard of hearing. Masks are a real barrier to fully understanding what people are saying – especially if you rely on lip reading as a visual queue. The Deaf and hard of hearing community is becoming more isolated as a result.”

“Yes, it is frustrating when someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, so imagination if that was happening to your everywhere you went.”

“The foundation has lobbied the government to find a more workable solution for our community- this includes where Covid testing and vaccinations are being carried out.”

“We have ‘buddy cards’ and sell butterfly pins that denote when someone is hard of hearing, to help make people more aware so that they speak more clearly and a bit louder.”