Q&A interview Life with a hearing impairment
Ellie Taylor is a filmmaker whose short film 'Hear' is premiering on Am I Normal. Commissioned as a result of a partnership between the Arts Council England and Channel 4, which works with and develops 16-24 year old filmmakers through a national initiative known as First Acts, 'Hear' explores what it's like to live with a hearing impairment. Find out more about First Acts here.
Am I Normal spoke to Ellie about her decision to make this film, her own experiences with hearing loss, and her suggestions on how to best deal with this common problem that affects around 1 in 6 people in the UK.
Hi Ellie, let's start by asking what prompted you to make ‘Hear’?
It's simply the fact that you can walk past someone and have no idea why their speech may not be the same as yours, or why they are not responding as quickly and normally as you would expect. It's because people are not aware. They are not aware that someone could have a hearing impairment. So 'Hear' gives people the opportunity to not only see how it feels but to gain that unknown experience that they cannot gain on a normal day. Everyone can learn about an impairment, but with my film you can feel it.
There are over 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss. Do you feel that there’s enough general education and support surrounding the issue?
Honestly, no. Hearing is not visually recognisable, so people are not aware. No one knows how to deal with someone who has hearing loss, when they meet them in their local shop or even in their schools. They take a stereotypical approach, and just stare. Why would they? If they knew how to sign a few simple things and if people were educated more on the subject, then social issues would certainly not occur.
Do you use any particular system to help you manage your hearing impairment?
Because my hearing loss only comes and goes, I personally don't have to use a medical system. However, I have learnt to lip read. It may sound like a general thing that anyone can do, but when you really need it, it can save a lot of time. It can be difficult, as everyone talks differently, but with key determination, you will understand.
You point out in ‘Hear’ that sometimes you don’t mind having a hearing impairment – that you quite like it. What is it about it that you like?
I like the fact that yes I can hear at times, and it's lovely to hear what's going on around me. However, I like the fact that I can be me, in my own world. I don't have to worry about anything else. I can focus on what I'm doing. Just me.
What would you suggest to any young people who might be struggling with a hearing impairment?
I would tell them that having an impairment does not make you different, or even abnormal. It makes you unique. You get to experience something that people around you don't. I understand that the world can be scary and even difficult and frustrating at times, but there's nothing that an impairment can stop you doing. I suggest you try new things.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Yes, I am particularly interested in doing a short film/project, on maybe something not so personal. I'd like to look at the idea of perception. I find it interesting how we accept the idea of a 'Perfect Body' or an 'Ideal Outfit' from a magazine. I want to explore through film, what do we actually read and believe? Do we really have to 'see it to believe it'?
Ellie’s advice on communicating with someone with a hearing impairment...
► Be patient
► Don't rush, and give them time to communicate
► Speak clearly - they have to see you in order to know that you are talking to them
► Reassure them. Someone with a hearing impairment may not appear to be emotionally dettached, but they do feel differently to you
If you'd like further information and support on hearing loss, check out the Channel 4 support site