How Eastenders’ Ben Mitchell is setting new standards for deaf representation


By Vicki Kirwin, Audiology Adviser on the Nationwide Deaf Kids’s Society

5 kids shall be born deaf right now. 5 extra will enter the world in a position to hear completely, however be deaf by early maturity. The identical will occur tomorrow.

Together with all those that develop listening to loss in later maturity, there are 12 million folks throughout the UK who’re deaf or reside with a listening to loss. For one in six folks, it’s part of on a regular basis life.

Regardless of the numbers although, seeing deafness depicted on tv is fairly uncommon. That’s why when EastEnders approached us on the Nationwide Deaf Kids’s Society for assistance on their new storyline about listening to loss, we had been delighted to just accept.

Viewers will have already got seen Ben Mitchell (performed by Max Bowden), who went deaf in a single ear throughout childhood, lose the listening to in his different ear after a dramatic boat crash. They’ll even have seen Frankie, a new deaf character, seem during the last week and she or he’ll go on to befriend Ben, displaying him that deafness shouldn’t cease him residing his life.

Ben is in hospital. Ben Mitchell (MAX BOWDEN) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes

When EastEnders introduced us in, our priorities had been to attempt to make it possible for deafness was mirrored in an correct and respectful approach. As childhood deafness is fairly unusual, it’s maybe unsurprising that there are fairly just a few myths surrounding it.

Do you know, for occasion, that solely round one in ten deaf kids use signal language? Have been you conscious that somewhat than being unable to listen to something, most deaf kids have some entry to sound? Or that the overwhelming majority don’t go to a deaf faculty, however as a substitute attend their native faculty with listening to kids, often as the one deaf pupil?

Deaf kids usually develop up with little or no entry to individuals who have first-hand expertise of what they’re going by, so it’s actually vital to see deafness represented on mainstream TV. We want deaf characters to encourage the youthful generations and to indicate the general public what it’s prefer to be deaf.

There’s no purpose that deafness wants to carry somebody again of their life, however there are obstacles to rising up in a listening to world, and it may be tough to adapt to deafness if you as soon as might hear.

Ben is an awesome instance of how this will occur to anybody, at any time, and as we’ve seen already, he’s struggling. We’ll watch on as he tries to deal with the challenges of speaking along with his associates and family members.

EastEnders - January - March - 2020 - 6099

It’s a battle that many deaf kids and younger folks will be capable of relate to, and it displays the difficulties they encounter each day. For those who have misplaced their listening to abruptly, they may see they’re not alone find the psychological impression difficult as they adapt to their new world.

But while we clearly want extra deaf characters, it’s essential to verify they’re at all times portrayed precisely. EastEnders took this very severely they usually requested us to advise straight on set. We defined how his hospital appointments would work and mentioned with solid members how Ben’s deafness and tinnitus would impression him.

We additionally gave recommendation on technical features of the storyline, just like the sorts of listening to expertise he may gain advantage from and the way listening to exams would work. We additionally defined what Ben might be anticipated to listen to (and never hear) earlier than and after, which shall be important for the ground-breaking upcoming episode shot with sound that viewers will hear from Ben’s perspective.

max bowden ben eastenders

We additionally put the script writers and Max Bowden (who performs Ben) in touch with a deaf younger individual to listen to first-hand what it’s like.

The work is now completed and because the storyline strikes into full swing, we’re delighted to say the preliminary response has been actually constructive. Deaf younger folks can see a personality reflecting their experiences on one in every of TV’s hottest reveals. There’s media protection in every single place. Individuals are speaking about, and maybe extra importantly, beginning to perceive a bit about what it’s prefer to be deaf. This shall be welcome for all deaf folks, no matter their age and wherever they’re on their journey.

But amid this positivity, there are households proper now who’re nonetheless coming to phrases with their baby being deaf and what which may imply. There are lots of deaf kids and younger folks experiencing the loneliness and isolation that deafness can deliver, heightened throughout coronavirus. There are others who’ve fallen behind in school as a result of they haven’t had the appropriate assist, or have been instructed they shouldn’t purpose for their dream job simply because they’re deaf.

In order you’re watching EastEnders and getting a glimpse into the lifetime of a deaf individual, bear in mind that you would be able to assist too. You possibly can embody a deaf individual in your conversations, be affected person if they’ll’t hear you and repeat your self once they want it. You possibly can communicate clearly, not unintentionally cowl your mouth, write issues down once they want it and use gestures as you communicate. You can even provide some pleasant understanding and ask them what their communication wants are.

It may not sound like a lot, nevertheless it actually will make an enormous distinction to a deaf individual. A bit deaf consciousness at all times goes a good distance.

If any mother and father, deaf kids or deaf younger folks want assist, they’ll contact us by way of our Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and textual content), on InterpreterNow (, by e-mail [email protected] or by our on-line chat at


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