May 2021 Mirror.co.uk
Lexie has struggled to communicate with people since the pandemic saw the introduction of face masks
Lexie Hubbock was born deaf and has been wearing hearing aids since she was four months old.
Now 12, she's had hearing tests and operations on her ears throughout her life, being fitted with a cochlear implant in October 2020. This gave Lexie more confidence and allowed her to spend her free time singing at the top of her lungs and recreating TikTok dances with her Mum Michelle.
However she still relies heavily on lipreading, something that has become impossible due to face masks needed through the Covid-19 pandemic.
She's just one of at least 50,000 deaf children in the UK who are having to adapt to the 'new normal' in which already tough communication is even harder. Lexie is in her first year of secondary school and her education has been impacted by pupils needing to wear masks in school, something Michelle doesn't agree with. She said: “When I found out that they were making them wear masks in school, I wasn’t a happy person. I pulled Lexie out of school for a couple of days until we resolved a few issues. “I don’t want them to wear masks. I don’t think they should be worn in the school classroom at all. Lexie is a massive lip-reader so it’s a big thing to not have access to that. It’s a mixture of everything, it’s the muffling, the not being able to hear as clearly when you’ve got other people talking as well.”
Mrs Hubbock added that visors make things worse as they muffle sound more than fabric masks do. In the past Lexie's teachers used the roger system, which saw them wear an electronic device around their necks that connected directly to her cochlear implant. But new pandemic rules have made this difficult and now the device must be left on a desk. Mum said: “She doesn’t get as much from it as what she probably would do pre-Covid. It’s unavoidable.”
Lexie attends a mainstream state secondary school in Warrington and despite the teachers and other pupils not being able to receive in-person deaf awareness training, they have made do with virtual sessions. She said: “I enjoy Drama and English. I like acting, it’s a bit of fun when you get to do different plays with your friends and you learn a bit more about your friends whilst doing it.”
Speaking during Deaf Awareness Week, which was set up by the Deaf Council and happy to spread awareness about living with hearing loss, Lexie offered strong words of inspiration to other deaf children. “Try and make the most out of it all. You’re different to other people so make the most out of it. Be an individual” said Lexie.
A survey taken by The National Deaf Children's Society said that 69 per cent of young people surveyed aged between 13 and 25 reported that communication with others was made very difficult due to the use of fabric masks. In a statement, Ian Noon, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said, “Almost all of the UK’s 50,000 deaf children rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to understand what’s being said, so the widespread use of face masks has presented them with huge challenges.
“Keeping up in school has become so much more difficult because many deaf children are struggling to understand their teacher. Some deaf young people have even told us they’re less keen to leave the house and now avoid public transport altogether."
Lexie was born deaf and was giving hearing aids after failing her newborn hearing screening.
The extent of her hearing loss was confirmed at eight months old and a cochlear implant in October 2020 marked her ninth operation. For the operation, the family had to travel from Warrington to Manchester as provisions and specialist medical treatment were not available close to home.
Lexie loved swimming and took lessons as a child but as she wore hearing aids at the time, it proved difficult. Michelle said: “She did try to do it for a while but she couldn’t speak to the other children in the class. Even though the instructor was really considerate of her needs and would come up to her to let her lip-read, she struggled. It was too difficult and there’s nothing specific for deaf children around here so we had to end the lessons sadly. In the area that we are, everything is really limited. There’s nothing at all in Warrington.”
Moving to a city is not on the cards for the family at the moment but Michelle is adamant that she would not hesitate to do so should Lexie need more provisions than their local area has to offer.
Living with her parents, three siblings, her three rabbits and a dog, Lexie streams TV directly to her cochlear implant, plays Fortnite and has relatable tiffs with her brothers and sisters.
Time with friends is spent shopping or going to the park but this has become difficult due to lockdown. Michelle said: “She’s a very good communicator, a very good listener for someone who’s deaf which I know sounds crazy but it’s very true.”