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Transcript of Interview with Magic Talk (radio station)

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Radio Host 0:00

It is 8:19 guys, and if you just joined us a very good morning to you, Kia ora. Now look in terms of what's going on with COVID around the country in the mask wearing and the mandated vaccinations and us all trying to take care of each other. Had a conversation in the office the other day around the fact that there are, there are groups in our community that can't wear masks, and some have respiratory problems. Some have medical conditions, such as a reaction to the skin of wearing a mask, I'm not sure how it works, but there's, they're out there. But there is a group that I was made aware of and hadn’t considered it, because I've got some members of my own extended family that are in this category - and that’s those that are hard of hearing. You know, when you're hard of hearing or you are deaf, a lot of people will sign and lip read at the same time. So when someone has a mask on, they lose so much of their communication. And the other side of that as well. If you are hard of hearing, the masks will muffle sound. So, we decided to contact the chief executive of the National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Natasha Gallardo.

Natasha Gallardo 1:17

Good morning.

Radio Host 1:18

Now, I believe you sit right in this category, and that's why you are with the National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Just for yourself, where is your hearing at so that our audience can understand.

Natasha Gallardo 1:33

Yeah, so I have severe hearing loss, and wear two hearing aids.

Radio Host 1:39

So in terms of getting out and about if someone has a mask, and they are mumbling away at you, what does it do for the communication?

Natasha Gallardo 1:49

It's really challenging. I mean, I encounter it myself every day. And just those everyday interactions that you took for granted, like going to the groceries, doctors, pharmacists, takeaway. Anyway, really where everyone else is wearing a mask, it's proving really, really difficult. As you mentioned, lip reading is a key communication or visual cue that people who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on to help piece together the conversation. So with the mask, covering up the half of the face, and also those expressions, it's really, really challenging to be able to follow the conversation. As well as the mask muffling the sounds, it's, it's really proving difficult, and has found the pandemic began.

Radio Host 2:38

Do you do you have any figures for the numbers of those that have a hearing disability in our community? Is it tens of thousands? Is it hundreds of thousands?

Natasha Gallardo 2:49

Now there are nearly a million people in New Zealand actually have hearing loss or, or are Deaf. So it’s a really big proportion of the population that has been affected. And I don't think anyone anticipated having to try to find solutions around mask wearing. And so the pandemic is really just highlighted how challenging it really has been over the last now you know, the winter, the third year, three years of the pandemic with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing trying to navigate their way through those everyday situations

Radio Host 3:25

Well you've got that you've got people that give him a hard time for not having a mask on, there's always all sorts of things that you have to deal with, to deal with a hearing disability as well. It just must, must make it worse. I'd like to talk about students, you know, youngsters in school and or high school, what are they facing around the pandemic and mask wearing and if they have hearing loss.

Natasha Gallardo 3:49

I think it'll be pretty much the same. It's now with that new mandate you mask wearing the teachers and in the classrooms, if they have hearing loss, they would really struggle to be able to hear what the teacher is saying. You have also in a classroom seeking if the teachers at the front of the room and the student is further away, in that also creates a barrier or challenge for them to be able to hear that conversation and they would rely heavily on those visual cues like lip reading, to try to put that conversation together. It'll be really challenging in a classroom setting for sure.

Radio Host 4:27

Do you have advice for teachers? I mean, there are certain things teachers could do that will make it easier for those youngsters.

Natasha Gallardo 4:35

Yeah, I think the key thing is that don't have your back facing the students when you're talking at the very least face to students and then speak up as much as you can - not shout but do speak up increase the volume. Write down really important information on the board so that people who have hearing loss can follow it. Also I think a number one thing is be aware of exactly who in your classroom, which students, have a hearing loss because they are going to need some extra help and support. And maybe just check in with them from time to time to make sure that they have followed the conversation. And then they have got the critical information that they need to have in the classroom.

Radio Host 5:21

Are the signs to look for in the youngsters, you know, that the teachers could look for and go, you know, what's happening, where is it at, and all that kind of stuff?

Natasha Gallardo 5:30

Ah, yeah for sure. Sometimes, I mean, that's the hard one. But things like if a student doesn't seem to be very engaged, although you could maybe just put that down to school…

Radio Host 5:44

[laughs], All of us all of us did that.

Natasha Gallardo 5:47

That is a hard one. But I mean, not been engaged, being distracted. The quality of his schoolwork to a degree, if it looks like we the teachers marking something that they've completely missed the mark then potentially, they could maybe have misheard. If the child has hearing loss or significant hearing loss and they are wearing hearing aids then the teacher might be more aware that they are they have a hearing loss, so be able to support them, but it's really just making sure trying to do the best you can to support students that may be falling behind or looking at other issues that could be affecting them like hearing loss.

Radio Host 6:29

When I was a youngster and I would pump up the volume, you know, crank the stereo, make the walls shaky, and I you can feel the music, not just listen to it. But now in this age of devices, youngsters with earplugs in all the time and the volume up, is that part of something we need to look at so that they they don't damage their ears?

Natasha Gallardo 6:53

Absolutely I mean, we've seen at least a 30% increase in hearing loss amongst young people since the 1990s. And the WHO has put this down to the lifestyle and personal devices. And unfortunately, personal devices and listening to your music and headphones or earbuds is actually preventable hearing loss. So so there with our hearing screening program that we're rolling out in high school, we're finding a lot of students, around 30%, are letting us know that they have ringing in the ears or tinnitus, and their listening habits are unsafe. And so tinnitus is generally a precursor to hearing loss. So in the future, these students could potentially have hearing loss which is irreversible, and more importantly, preventable.

Radio Host 7:48

30% is very high. I'm surprised by that.

Natasha Gallardo 7:53

Very high in fact, one, right now one of five young people globally have a hearing loss. It's down to preventable causes. So a big part of the work that we do is on education in trying to educate young people that you can still listen to music, we're not saying you can't. But here's some really good tips and tricks on how to do it safely and just keep the volume a little bit lower, and be aware of how long you're listening for and if you are getting tinnitus or ringing in the ear, then you really need to rest your ears and give them a break.

Radio Host 8:28

Natasha if parents are concerned and they're listening and how do they get in touch with you? How do they get in touch with the National Foundation for deaf and hard of hearing.

Natasha Gallardo 8:37

You jump onto our website We’ve got lots of great resources on the about safe listening guidelines and tips and things for parents. So yeah, jump onto our website.

Radio Host 8:50

Natasha thanks for joining us here at Magic talk. Have a great day. Thank you. Natasha Gallardo, Chief Executive the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She said there's about a million people. That's a fifth just under a fifth of a community that have some form of hearing loss. That's however high and I suspect most of it preventable. Hope you're doing something about it, taking your calls 0800 8447 47 If you wish.

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