As I’m writing during Deafblind Awareness Week, this blog post seemed an opportunity to reflect how people living with sight and hearing loss might find nature, art and music helpful in all different ways.
Running this year from 27 June to 3 July, Deafblind Awareness Week is focusing on telling other people, sharing the experiences of the 400,000 people in the UK who have sight and hearing loss. Deafblind UK has videos to watch and share online, presenting three people’s experiences.
Degrees of sight and hearing loss differ widely. Some people have no sight or hearing. Others may have no sight but some hearing, or may be partially sighted but have no hearing. Some have lower levels of sight and hearing loss.
This is clearly integral to how people might experience art, music or nature. Someone with no sight or hearing could still experience all three, but differently, in new ways. They might enjoy music through beat and vibration, or by learning the Makaton form of sign language to sign and sing along to songs. Organizations like Sense share music with deafblind children in this way, and there are Makaton choirs and music groups: opening up ways to communicate and respond. For someone with only partial hearing loss, on the other hand, music might become an opportunity to play instruments. The RNIB supports people with sight loss to play music using braille music or other techniques.
Onc eagain, art’s impact depends on people’s situations. Tactile art forms, like modelling with clay, fabric art or flower arranging, could be enjoyable ways for people to be creative. Many people who are partially sighted do paint or draw, maybe using strong, bright colours or else drawing in black and white as colour contrasts can be helpful.
Nature also opens up different experiences. Sensory gardens have plants grown for their scents and feel – and for their sound as well for those with some hearing. Time spent outdoors in the wind, the sunshine or in a storm can be a sensory stimulus, boosting mood, calming and enthralling people.
So many of the ways art, nature and music improve anyone’s wellbeing are all the more important for people with sight and hearing loss: connecting with other people, easing depression, creating mental stimulus and calming anxiety. While people of all ages experience sight and hearing loss, acquired loss tends to be more common in older people. Some people of any age may also have other disabilities or mobility issues, sometimes connected to their sight or hearing loss. All this can limit opportunities to keep busy, so that nature, music and art are important ways to spend time, absorbed by diverse stimuli.
People may need to be imaginative to connect with art, music and nature while living with hearing and sight loss. But all three can be so helpful and positive that this will be worthwhile.
Do you have any experiences or thoughts you might like to share in response to this blog post, in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002? Thank you.