Advocates speak for Hearing Awareness Week 2020

A young woman stands in front of a series of black and white portraits
Image: Grace Troughton with her ARTEXPRESS artwork

Hearing Awareness Week is an opportunity to raise awareness of the deaf and hard of hearing in schools and the wider community from 1 to 7 March 2020.

Deaf teenager Grace Troughton used her HSC visual artwork 'Speak Up' to raise awareness of being deaf or hard of hearing. Grace graduated from Newtown High School of the Performing Arts last year.

Her artwork is being exhibited at ARTEXPRESS and features photographs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing, alongside cochlear implants, hearing aids and Australian sign language (Auslan).

There are more than 1900 students who are deaf or hard of hearing across the state in mainstream schools and 39 support units hearing. Students are supported to use their preferred mode of communication by around 293 fulltime positions of specialist itinerant teacher of the deaf.

Grace said: "Hearing is a sense we all value, a sense that not all have and many lose. Loss of hearing can occur at any age, for many reasons, to anyone. Sympathy is given at first, then you are left alone to figure out how to cross the barriers. Society is moving towards positive change, learning about our differences, making a welcoming space."

"I think that bringing together the hearing and the deaf and hard of hearing world is a very important step to take toward breaking barriers and making the world a bit of a better place."

Tips for teachers and school staff to support the deaf and hard of hearing

  • Make sure that the student can see you when you're speaking
  • Be aware that hearing devices don't mean a student can automatically hear everything
  • Have a private conversation with the student about what works best for them
  • Encourage other students to learn Auslan if the student uses Auslan
  • Speak clearly during group discussions
  • Try not to talk in a noisy place

Advocates share the importance of hearing loss awareness

Nick Craig, Disability Council NSW: "Hearing awareness week is important to heighten awareness and support for people with different levels of hearing loss. No one should ever be embarrassed for being deaf or hard of hearing. Living in a technology era affords opportunities to bridge communication access for educators, hearing students, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing to engage and interact together - whether through online platforms, Auslan or both."

David Brady, CEO, Hear for You: "We want to break down the stigma of hearing loss in our society. We've had teenagers who had mild to moderate hearing loss and didn't know the whole way through primary school. The only way you'll know is through their lower marks, not paying attention in the classroom, probably being too animated and loud. They could be perceived as disruptive kids but they can't hear. Deaf and hard of hearing people are more likely to develop mental health issues especially when younger and thinking about their identity. We're calling on people to have their hearing checked."

Resources for teachers to raise awareness of hearing loss are available on the Hearing Awareness Week and World Health Organisation websites.

ARTEXPRESS is an annual exhibition of outstanding student artworks developed for the HSC exam in Visual Arts in NSW.

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