Upcoming TV star?

Hi everyone! I know it has been a while since my last post, I think I have been in a slight writing slump and have been telling myself that there is no pressure to write regularly. But I am back again because I wanted to share an amazing opportunity I had this week!

Since starting this blog, a close friend of mine suggested I reach out to deaf charities to let them know about my writing. I reached out to the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and they really liked the blog. Coincidentally at the same time, they were working on the Deaf Works Everywhere Campaign to raise awareness on all the different kinds of jobs and careers that deaf people go on to do! This is especially after a recent YouGov poll of 2176 people commissioned by NDCS found 47% of the public do not think deaf people can be doctors. For this, they collaborated with ITV to do a press release and ITV contacted me to be their main person!

I, of course, said yes! I brushed up a bit on my acting skills, last pulled out when I was a Lost Boy in my Year 6 Peter Pan production. Oh no, but that wasn’t a speaking role…

So, ITV said they wanted to film me in my work environment interacting with colleagues and then do an interview on my experiences as a deaf medical student. I was at Chesterton Medical Centre, as part of the CAMEO team. CAMEO (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Assessing, Managing and Enhancing Outcomes) is a mental health service for people who are struggling with distressing experiences like hallucinations or paranoia. The service supports people that may be at high risk of developing a mental health problem such as psychosis and those that may be experiencing their first episode of psychosis.

I was feeling quite nervous on the day, but the CAMEO team were really lovely and reassured me, especially Dr Lili Galindo Guarin! The CPFT communications team were also there to support me, and they eased my worries too!

So! I will be on ITV1 news today (27th Jan) from 6-6:30pm raising awareness of the different types of jobs deaf people can have. I spoke about my experiences as a deaf medical student, some of the challenges and the support I receive. I think an online version with subtitles will be released this weekend (and will upload this as soon as I have access!)

I loved this opportunity and hopefully it will inspire more deaf people to apply to Medicine. It is so important to have medical professionals who look like the community they serve.

(note to myself for next time: be less nervous! you are doing well, and try to ignore the camera inches away from your face!)

Thank you for reading 😊

Ashna x

You don’t look deaf

What do you mean? What does deaf look like? Is it because I can talk? How about with my hair up? Do I look deaf enough now?

I have been told this many times in my life, and every single time, I wish I had said something back. Grrr…

Telling me that I don’t look deaf suggests deafness is bad, something I should be thankful I don’t look like! It suggests that I have done well to look ‘normal’, like everyone else, like you.

It insinuates there is a way to be deaf. All my life, I have felt in the middle of two worlds: the hearing and the deaf. My hearing aids allow me to move through life appearing normal, yet all it takes is a dead hearing aid battery or a lost ear mould to feel deaf again. The term ‘hearing impaired’ felt wrong, it felt like I needed fixing. ‘Hard of hearing’ felt like I was falling short of the norm again. Yet, I also know I didn’t fully fit into the Deaf world. I don’t use sign language, my parents and friends are hearing, and I didn’t grow up immersed in the vibrant Deaf culture.

It also reminds me of years of my life when I consciously and unconsciously tried to not look deaf. Throughout school, I have had different Teachers of the Deaf who would support me, my parents, and my teachers to help provide an accessible home and learning environment. I remember feeling embarrassed to be taken out of class to see them, and to have to explain to my friends where I went. I was given various assistive listening devices (or radio aids) to help transmit a teacher’s voice directly into my hearing aids, and would have to hand this over at the start of every lesson. However, I stopped using these as I struggled with calling attention to myself and then having to explain to teachers and peers why I needed them. I remember early in secondary school, I was asked by my Teacher of the Deaf why I don’t wear my hair up, and if this was to hide my hearing aids. I was annoyed she would even suggest that, but in hindsight, I think she was right.

Growing up, deaf looked like old white men on TV commercials, who struggled to hear their grandkids – this didn’t look like me! It is only recently with social media that I have started seeing more diverse deaf representation, and I met my first deaf friend at uni only this year (hi, if you are reading!) I am working towards feeling proud to be deaf, and there is still so much I have yet to learn. But I know there is no one way to look deaf.

So here is to a whole day of wearing my hair up!

Ashna x

“It doesn’t matter”

Hello! Happy New Year 😊 I hope you had a good break, regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas!

We have just had a much-needed fortnight off before starting our new term today! Though two weeks is very short, I had a good time and really enjoyed it. I went to India for a week and it was so nice to see my family again after 3 years, and to reconnect with cousins who are also now much older! Yes, very little work was done, but I still have time for that, right?

I wanted to write a short post about how the holiday season may not be all fun and games for deaf people. The holiday was a much-needed break away from the hustle and bustle of work, but I came across several challenges. I struggled with the big family gatherings, the new voices and sounds, and family members who did not know about my hearing loss. Suddenly, my deafness affected me much more than it had before, though nothing about me had changed.

So here are some tips, for deaf people and their loved ones, to help make holidays and family gatherings more deaf-friendly:

  • Lighting – Try and have bright lighting as much as possible so that it is easier to lip-read or sign. Think about positioning, can the deaf person see everyone’s faces or hands? If eating at a restaurant, ask for a well-lit table.
  • Background noise – Turn music off, or keep it to a low. Allow anyone to leave for a quieter space if they need time away from the noise (listening fatigue is real, kids!)
  • Conversations – Speak one at a time, and try not to mumble or cover your mouth when speaking. Actively involve them in the conversation, do not just speak to their partner or parent instead. Actively involve them in the conversation, and be prepared to repeat anything. Don’t let the deaf person feel they are burdening you – do not say “it doesn’t matter”, never mind” or “I will tell you later”. I promise you, it does matter, and if you say otherwise one more time, then I just might cry!
  • Subtitles – Watching a film? Going to the cinema? Make sure the subtitles are set up on the TV beforehand, and try and find captioned screenings. From personal experience, it can feel very isolating watching a 2-hour movie without understanding anything (or you can just make up your own plot!)
  • Awareness – If possible, speak up. If your loved one is struggling to hear or follow the conversation, ask if they may need help advocating for themselves. Talk about how things could be changed to make it easier. If needed, with consent, even speak to family members before any gatherings so they are aware of what they could do to help. Raising awareness and advocating for oneself can be hard, especially in different social/cultural contexts where disability and asking for help is more taboo. Understand this and offer to help.

There are many more adjustments that could be made, but most importantly, ask if anything else could be done. Don’t shy away from the conversation. The holidays can be an overwhelming time for anyone, and if these tips could help make it a little less isolating, then why not try them out?

Ashna x

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