While Medley highlights how art, music and nature can improve wellbeing for anyone and everyone, I also want to focus on specific ways they can help people in particular circumstances, like hearing loss. We’re now in the middle of Deaf Awareness Week (4-9 May), which is run every year across all different organisations involved with hearing loss. While these organisations all mark the Week in different ways, there’s always a common theme, which this year is Coming Through It Together: recognising how people have pulled together throughout this last year. So the Week seemed an opportunity to explore how art in particular can help people living with hearing loss, either lifelong or acquired.
Art’s visual focus can level the playing field for people with hearing loss, so that when they stand at an easel or experiment with printing, their hearing isues become irrelevant: which must be truly liberating.
Art could become another language for people with hearing loss who might struggle to communicate or depend on sign language or Makaton. In paint, clay and pencil, people can all express themselves with no need for speech or hearing. People might turn to art as a tool to express their experience of hearing loss or their emotional response to it: to rage, to lament, or to celebrate. Or they might simply enjoy art as anyone would, maybe to calm down and relax, to clear their minds, to play around with colour and line.
Art’s impact could depend on age as well. Children with hearing loss have been found to benefit particularly from sensory activities to develop and draw out their other senses. Many people with acquired hearing loss will be older, and might find art reconnects them with other people and eases isolation. Of course, hearing loss can isolate people of any age, as easy everyday interaction can seem impossible and people can become withdrawn. Art can be one way for people to share common ground with others.
Living with hearing loss may even strengthen some people’s creative flair, as their focus on the visual will be more absolute.
Another way art can help is by raising awareness and as an opportunity to share experiences of being deaf. US-based artist Priscila Soares (https://myluckyears.com) is someone who uses her art to do just that. She herself has lived with hearing loss since her teens and now also has a son with a different form of hearing loss. Her artwork is bold, striking and varied. Not only has she painted a series of portraits called Stories Of Hearing Loss Through Painting, but she has also illustrated two children’s books about hearing loss, and produces sculptures, puppets and comics. I particularly like her paintings of musicians wearing hearing aids.Being positive about living with hearing loss is one of Priscila’s goals for her art.
Creativity could also be a way for people who have hearing loss to respond to nature, with all its own proven impacts on wellbeing. People might be unable to hear outdoor sounds, but time spent in nature is known to be a beneficial sensory experience for hearing and non-hearing people alike, and art can make all of us more observant.
It would be great if you would like to share your own or others’ experiences of art and hearing loss on Medley’s Facebook group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you!