Deaf Awareness Week is an annual event which is promoted by the UK Council on Deafness (UKCoD). It seeks to raise awareness of the difficulties experienced by people who are deaf or hard of hearing and promote social inclusion. This year, it will take place on the 14th-20th May.

Figures show that 1 in 6 people in the UK are affected by hearing loss – this is approximately 10 million people. Although more common in those aged 70 or older, it can affect people of all ages. Around 2 million people in the UK wear hearing aids and around 800,000 are either severely or profoundly deaf.

By 2035, the number of people in the UK who are estimated to have some form of hearing loss will reach 15.6 million. As well as affecting adults, there are 45,000 deaf children in the UK.

What is deafness?

The term ‘deaf’ is used to refer to all levels of hearing loss, including partial or total loss of hearing.  Deafness, or hearing loss, happens when one or more parts of the ear are not working as they should do. It can affect one ear or both.

Types of deafness

  • Sensorineural deafness, also known as nerve deafness, is hearing loss in the inner ear. It usually means that the cochlea (the organ that translates sound into nerve impulses to send to the brain) is not working properly. This kind of deafness is permanent.
  • Conductive deafnesshappens when sound cannot pass as it normally would into the inner ear. Reasons for this can include blockages such as wax in the outer ear or fluid in the middle ear (called glue ear).

Causes of deafness before birth

Deafness can be passed down through families. In the UK, deafness which is caused by genetic factors affects around 50% of the children who are born deaf. In approximately 30% of children, the gene which has caused their deafness may also cause other health difficulties too.

In pregnancy, deafness can be triggered by complications such as the mother contracting rubella, toxoplasmosis (an infection transmitted through undercooked meat, soil, or in cat faeces) and herpes. There are also a number of medicines which can damage a baby’s hearing whilst in the womb.

Causes of deafness after birth

If a baby is born prematurely, this can increase the chances of the child either being deaf or becoming deaf. This is because premature babies are more vulnerable to picking up infections, the side effects of which can result in deafness. Later in childhood, infections such as measles and mumps can also cause this.

If a child were to suffer a head injury or extreme exposure to loud noise, this can also cause deafness.

Ideas to support Deaf Awareness Week:

  • Teach your children British Sign Language greetings such as “Hello”, “How are you?”, “Good”, “Good morning” and “Thank you”
  • Host a Paws for Coffee event to raise funds and awareness for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Each canine companion for a deaf person costs £40,000 to train and support over its lifetime, so the charity relies heavily on fundraising
  • Teach your children how to sign the lyrics of a nursery rhyme or song
  • Host a big cake bake sale to raise funds for an organisation or charity which helps people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Share your events and activities on social media using the hashtag #DAW2018 to show your support for Deaf Awareness Week


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