Interview: Samantha Baines, author of “Living With Hearing Loss and Deafness”.
Signature recently wrote to Samantha Baines, an English actress, author, and comedian. Samantha is a deaf activist and proud hearing aid wearer. In April, Samantha released her bestseller non-fiction book “Living With Hearing Loss and Deafness”. The book acts as a guide that aims to make more people deaf aware. Due to her comedic nature, Samantha’s accounts are humorous yet highly informative.
Samantha Baines is alongside 12 million people living in the United Kingdom with hearing loss. Indeed, this is a vast proportion of the UK’s population and so having a wider spectrum of personal accounts is vital as it is likely that someone close to you will be living with hearing loss.
Why was sharing your story on hearing loss and deafness so important for you?
I think it’s important for lots of different stories of deaf experiences to be readily available. It was what I searched for when I discovered I had hearing loss at 30 years old. Crucially, being able to relate to others and their experiences made me feel less alone. I truly hope that my book can be that for people on their own deaf journeys.
How did you feel sharing your own personal experiences of hearing loss?
I am a comedian, so I have always been an over-sharer, goes with the job, so it felt cathartic to share my experiences. I think the most amazing part of the book process was interviewing so many other deaf people, who openly shared their experiences. Ultimately, those interviews are my favourite part of the book.
What was your main aim within the book?
I want the book to be a companion and resource for people new to their deaf journeys and a toolkit for hearing people who want to learn how to be deaf aware and make spaces more accessible.
In your book you share information on how to make your workspace more accessible, could you give some more information on this?
I think a lot of people wait for an employer to sort out ‘deaf awareness training’ for them. Undeniably, training is important but there are lots of things we can all do in the meantime off our own back to make spaces more accessible. Just keep in mind lipreading needs while setting up a space. Some simple reasonable adjustments can make a huge difference, these could include- Placing the chairs in a circle so everyone can see each other, good lighting, and minimal background noise. A lot of people say, “oh but there is no one deaf at my work”, however, I found that many deaf people don’t disclose their communication needs in the workplace for fear of being treated differently. One in five of us have some form of hearing loss or deafness, so it is very likely that there are deaf people at your work. Perhaps if the environment was made more accessible, people would feel more confident in opening up about their hearing loss.
What is the best advice you have been given during your hearing loss journey?
The best advice I have been given is to find a deaf community. For a long time, I felt that I didn’t ‘fit in’ because I had never had access to BSL, and my deaf journey started later in life. However, I soon realised that there are so many of us with different experiences and once I connected with other deaf people, I felt really seen and started to feel proud of my deaf awareness.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone who is at the start of their hearing loss journey?
I would express the fact that it is okay to feel overwhelmed or anxious about the future, but you are going to be okay and one day you might even love being deaf.
To get your hands on a copy, simply click here.