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‘It does matter’: our new research reveals over a quarter of deaf people are ignored in public

This Deaf Awareness Week (6-12 May), our major new research reveals the extent of the stigma and negative attitudes that deaf people and people with hearing loss experience on a regular basis. 

 Earlier this year, we invited our communities to take part in the biggest survey we’ve ever run, asking what experiences and attitudes they’ve faced by the general public in the past year. More than two thirds (67%) of our communities say they have experienced negative attitudes or behaviours, and almost half (48%) have experienced this from their own family members. 

 47% of survey participants with hearing loss said members of the public have shouted or talked loudly at them in the last year, and 50% report people being impatient with them. 

 Cuttingly, over half of our participants (54%) reported regularly being excluded from conversations, with people saying ‘it doesn’t matter’ when they struggle to understand what is being said.

One participant with hearing loss said: 

 “One of the worst things is when people say something I miss and when asked to repeat they say ‘oh it doesn’t matter’. It probably didn’t matter to them at the time, but it makes me feel I don’t matter.”  

One in five (22%) of people with hearing loss said most people ignore them in public settings, and this increased to 41% for deaf people and 59% for people who use BSL. 

One deaf woman surveyed by us said:

“People tend to spot the hearing aids and then change, and will either start shouting or ignore me and talk to my partner.”

Watch the ‘It does matter’ report in BSL

Read our report

Download a copy of our ‘It does matter’ report, offering in-depth insight into the negative attitudes and experiences faced by deaf people and people with hearing loss.
Read the report

Negative attitudes in public services and the workplace  

As well as family situations, shopping and the workplace were also highlighted as causes of stress for our survey participants. 51% of people with hearing loss have experienced negative attitudes and behaviours from retail staff in the last 12 months, which rises to 69% of deaf people and 81% of BSL users.  

 A quarter (25%) of deaf people said they have experienced negative attitudes and behaviours from work colleagues in the last 12 months, a figure which is almost double (49%) for BSL users. 

The impact on our communities

 The impact of negative attitudes and behaviours in daily life is colossal: of those who have experienced them, almost one in two (47%) told us they feel excluded, a third (33%) feel lonely or isolated, and 39% said these experiences had a negative effect on their confidence. For BSL users, the impact is often more significant, with 56% saying they feel disrespected by people around them.  

Sarah Adedeji, 23, from Erith, South East London, is deaf. She said: 

 “There’s a lot of stigma and misconceptions around deafness. People told my mum I wouldn’t amount to anything and that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish some things because of my hearing loss.  

“There was a lot of friction between us and family gatherings were difficult. My family didn’t learn to sign, so I had to rely on speech and lipreading which was often tiring and isolating.

“Sometimes in a group conversation I wouldn’t catch something and people would say ‘oh it doesn’t matter’. Or people assumed that because I can lipread, I can hear. At some point, I would get listening fatigue and retreat into myself. It was damaging, but I just had to put up with it. 

“It was my mum who encouraged me to become an audiologist. She saw that I could be a role model and that’s what kickstarted my interest. Being a black deaf person in audiology, I’m already changing perceptions and that’s what I want to do. I’m already making little waves that hopefully become bigger waves.” 

Crystal Rolfe, Director of Strategy at RNID, said: 

“1 in 5 adults in the UK are deaf or have hearing loss, yet our research shows that every day people face negative attitudes and behaviours at work, when they’re out shopping, and even from their families. 

“The impact of this can be huge: making people feel excluded, lonely, and disrespected, and destroying their confidence. Often it causes people to withdraw, to avoid others, and even hide that they are deaf or have hearing loss.

“We want people across the UK to stand with us and say that the way deaf people and people with hearing loss are treated really does matter. We know the public want to know how to do this, so we’re urging people to explore our easy tips on good communication.”

Our recommendations for the general public

An enormous thank you to everyone who took part in our Big Survey earlier this year. Thanks to your contributions, we have the evidence to demand for better and help the general public understand the impact of their behaviour and misconceptions.

It has also helped us create recommendations for the general public that will most make a difference. Our set of communication tools and tips can help them communicate more inclusively, inviting everyone into the conversation.

Share the campaign

If your friends and family could benefit from learning how to better communicate with you, they can sign up to our communication tips – just share the below link with them.
Share our communication tips

Read about our new creative approach to how we’ve presented BSL translations in this campaign.

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