Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Unmask … and make life smiles better for the deaf


‘I’VE taken to avoiding public places. I feel more disabled now than I did before.’ 

Mask wearers have been told they are selfless, but most are oblivious to the social costs for 12million UK people with hearing problems 

It was recently suggested – by Health Secretary Sajid Javid no less – that those not wearing masks indoors were ‘not playing their role as a responsible citizen’.  

Despite the lack of real-world evidence supporting masking in the community, and the fact that as late as March 2020, then Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny Harries was telling BBC News  that ‘because of behavioural issues, (mask-wearers) can adversely put themselves at more risk than less,’ we’ve heard for over a year now that mask-wearers are kind and caring, while those not masking their faces have been shamed as selfish and harmful to society. 

But, while doubtless well-intentioned, mask wearers are unwittingly creating a difficult environment for many deaf people. Some have become extremely isolated, or may even have withdrawn from normal society altogether. 

‘I feel more disabled now than I did before the mask mandate,’ says Jane (not her real name). ‘I didn’t realise quite how much I depended on lip reading and facial expression until mask wearing became mandatory.  

‘My “hidden disability” is now very visible because I have to ask people to repeat themselves as masks muffle their voices and I can no longer lip-read or read faces. 

‘Reluctantly I have to declare that I’m deaf.  People then tend to raise their voices, not realising that volume isn’t the issue – it is the higher frequencies I can’t hear, so clarity is lost.  

‘I don’t like to ask people to lower their masks – I’m aware that many are anxious. However, the combination of background noise in public places, mask wearing, plastic barriers and physical distancing makes daily communication fraught for the deaf. 

‘Putting a mask on and off can dislodge hearing aids, which balance quite precariously on the back of the ear. And replacement is expensive – even the most basic aids cost over £1,000. 

‘I’ve taken to shopping online and avoiding public places rather than enduring this rigmarole. While this is less stressful, it is somewhat isolating and I feel more disabled now than I did before the mask mandate.  

‘I fear for the emotional wellbeing of the socially isolated and the elderly with hearing loss – those for whom a brief conversation might be their only social contact of the day.’  

The lifting of most of the mask mandates on July 19, 2021 was warmly welcomed by the Smile Free campaign as an important step towards getting our lives back to some form of much-needed normality.  

And on TCW Defending Freedom earlier this week, Liz Hodgkinson, author of Smile Therapy , told how smiling and laughter have a vital part to play in the maintenance of health and avoidance of illness.  

Regrettably, however, 16 months of psychological manipulation – orchestrated by the Government’s behavioural scientists, and perpetuated by statements such as Javid’s – has evoked, for some people, feelings of shame when going without a face covering in community settings.  

Given the relentless bombardment with covert ‘nudges’ that we’ve all endured, such reactions are understandable albeit totally unjustified.  

Indeed, those choosing to ditch the masks should do so with heads held high for a number of important reasons, one of which is that keeping our faces on show helps the 1-in-5 adults in the UK The Royal National Institute for the Deaf says suffer with hearing difficulties

The 12million people with some degree of deafness are, like the hearing population, social animals who need to interact with others in order to sustain their wellbeing.  

The facial reactions of the people we meet provide continuous feedback about ourselves and the impact we are having on our fellow citizens. Masks obstruct both verbal and non-verbal communication, acting as a major impediment to all these human requirements and – as such – they are dehumanising. 

We are now at a point in time where there is a choice: We either reclaim our humanity and return to a normal life, or endure an indefinite period of anxious existence.  

No longer wearing a mask in community settings is an essential element of this recovery process, and those people who are reluctant to remove their face coverings due to a sense of shame, or fear of disapproval, should do so in the knowledge that such an action will help the 12million with hearing problems reconnect with their fellow humans. 

For further information, and support, please consider joining our Smile Free campaign.

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Dr Gary Sidley
Dr Gary Sidley
Dr Gary Sidley is a retired NHS consultant clinical psychologist, a member of HART and part of the Smile Free campaign against forced masking in the UK.

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