'Fascinating and illuminating ... Up there with Oliver Sacks' The Arts Desk

Bella Bathurst started to go deaf shortly after she turned over her car on black ice aged 27. Eight months later, her hearing was down about 50% - and deteriorating continuously. She was issued with two hearing aids and tried to get on with her life.

But while the hearing disappeared, it took her social life with it. Eventually she sought help, and discovered how rich and varied life can be for a deaf person. There are 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, and on average it takes them a decade to do something about it.

In 2009, Bella was rediagnosed, discovering that the deafness was a result of an operable genetic condition. After surgery on each ear, her hearing gradually returned.

Sound is a memoir of her experience, and an exploration of science, music and the beauty of silence. 

We asked Bella to give her top tips for how to make life easier for a deafened person, which you'll find below.

Last week, Bella took part in a Reddit AMA, where users could ask her anything about her experiences of deafness. There were some brilliant questions and, of course, insightful answers - have a look.

Five Top Tips for the Deafened

When you're dealing with someone who you know can't hear well, it helps to remember a couple of points.

 1. Speak clearly. 

All of us, hearing or deaf, lip-read. For someone who can't hear well it makes a huge difference being able to see the shape of a word in someone's face.  So enunciate properly, don't cover your mouth, and have faith in what you're saying.

 2. Face the person. 

Try having a conversation with someone while they're turned away from you - doing the washing up is the classic example.  Better still, try having a conversation with them while they're turned away, the tap is running, the kettle's boiling and the washing machine has just reached the top of its spin cycle.  It's really, really difficult.  Someone with hearing problems will struggle to filter out extraneous noise, so either make sure they can see you properly or just wait until the surrounding sound has stopped.

 3. Turn the music off. 

Not because your playlist isn't great, but just because it will be competing with you for their attention.  For someone deafened, it's either / or, not both at the same time.

 4. Get some sleep.  

For someone deafened it takes a huge amount of energy and brain-space to process sound.  Hearing loss is knackering, so don't be surprised if you suddenly find yourself living with someone who's in bed by 9pm every night

 5. Have mercy.  

If someone you know is struggling at family mealtimes or big social gatherings, then just ask them what would make things easier and recognise that they're probably going to be happier with a one-to-one situation.  Be patient with the need to repeat things two or three times, but also recognise that deafness can be tiring to live with and that you too might need a bit of time out occasionally. 

Watch Bella describe her own experience below.


Sound is published in partnership with the Wellcome Collection, and is out now.

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