Wagga's Deanne Haddrill fears face masks to leave deaf people struggling to communicate

REAL CONCERN: Wagga's Deanne Haddrill, who has been deaf her entire life, will wear a face mask but is concerned others will not make it easy for her to communicate. Picture: Emma Hillier
REAL CONCERN: Wagga's Deanne Haddrill, who has been deaf her entire life, will wear a face mask but is concerned others will not make it easy for her to communicate. Picture: Emma Hillier

As more people are encouraged to wear face masks, Wagga's Deanne Haddrill is worried that life is about to get incredibly difficult for the deaf community.

The 31-year-old has been deaf her entire life, but has relied on hearing aids and lip-reading to communicate to other people.

Although masks are not yet mandatory in NSW shops, the state government is strongly recommending they be worn in enclosed public spaces in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

For many people wearing a mask is only a slight inconvenience, but for deaf people and those hard of hearing it creates a communication barrier, said Ms Haddrill.

She said a recent encounter with a masked retail worker has left her feeling "humiliated, degraded and anxious" about the next time she needs to visit the shops.

"I went to a chemist in town and the lady was wearing a mask. I asked her to repeat herself a few times because I couldn't hear, showing my hearing aid" she said.

"My kid would usually translate, but they were looking at me and saying I can't hear what she said.

"The lady said quite loudly what, are you deaf or something? I felt so humiliated and I don't want to be put into a position where I feel like that again."

Ms Haddrill understands the importance of face masks and coverings and is happy to wear one, but she said people need to be patient and respectful because there is no real solution to help deaf people communicate while these masks are necessary for everyone to wear.

She said someone's inability to hear is not a good enough excuse for others to be rude to them. Rather than speaking louder and showing frustration, Ms Haddrill suggested that people stay calm, repeat themselves and make their sentences more clear.

"So many people have so much anxiety already with everything going on," she said.

"Now imagine not being able to hear or made to feel embarrassed and ashamed because you have something going on that not everyone needs to know."

Ms Haddrill said everyone has a different way of communicating and when someone's mouth is concealed those relying on lip reading miss out on a lot, including facial expressions and persona.

"Everyone is fighting a battle that we know nothing about - just be kind," she said.

"We do not want to stand out because we have a hearing disability.

We take it so personal because it is something that is personal to us. We do try and we want to fit in as per everyone else."

This story Deaf community fears face masks will create more barriers first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.