‘My deaf diagnosis made me cry, I’m appalled at Love Island Tasha’s treatment’

‘My deaf diagnosis made me cry, I’m appalled at Love Island Tasha’s treatment’

When Tasha Ghouri walked into the sun-drenched Love Island villa she made history as the first deaf contestant to take part in the reality show.

Tasha, who was born deaf, has been making a stir inside the villa with her on/off relationship with Andrew Le Page.

However, some viewers have not just been commenting on Tasha’s romantic pursuits. She has cruelly been trolled online with people mocking her voice and making cruel jokes at her expense.

Here comedian, children’s author and deaf campaigner Samantha Baines explains her shock at ‘proud’ Tasha’s treatment, reveals how hearing loss has affected her own life and why like most people in the deaf community, she doesn’t need others’ pity…

“I was so excited to see Tasha Ghouri enter the Love Island villa as the first ever deaf contestant.

She was young and cool, proudly displaying her cochlear implant, and could be the perfect role model to help raise deaf awareness. I thought she’d ride the positive wave that began when Rose Ayling-Ellis won Strictly Come Dancing last year.



Tasha is Love Island’s first deaf contestant

The first disappointment was when Tasha told the other Islanders she had a cochlear implant and one of the contestants said something like, ‘We’ll be here for her for whatever she’s going through.’

It sounded like the sort of thing you might say if someone said they suffered from anxiety. Whereas Tasha was just telling them something about herself.

Since then there have been some appalling comments about her on social media and some people have been mocking the way she speaks in TikTok videos. It’s been incredibly personal and incredibly ableist.

I’m shocked by it but I wish I could say I’m surprised. I think the deaf community is probably the least surprised by what’s happened because we’re so used to such comments.

Often when we say we’re deaf, people say: ‘I’m so sorry’. Or they might say: ‘You’d never know it’ or ‘you don’t speak like a deaf person’.

But like most in the deaf community, I don’t want people to feel pity for me for being deaf. I’m happy to be deaf and proud to wear a hearing aid.

It’s so sad because the reaction to Rose on Strictly was so positive. She won the BAFTA TV Moment of the Year for the silent dance sequence that captured everyone’s imagination.

There was such lovely feedback and it felt like the awareness we’ve always wanted was gathering pace, that people wanted to educate themselves about deafness and hearing loss.



Rose Ayling-Ellis won the most recent series of Strictly Come Dancing

I worry the backlash against Tasha will have a detrimental impact on a lot of young people who may think, ‘Well, if she opened up about her deafness and she’s getting all these horrible comments, that might happen to me. Why would I be open about my deafness or be proud of my deafness?’ And then we come back to trying to hide this part of yourself, which is never a good idea.

Since discovering I needed a hearing aid in my late twenties I’ve become a bit of an accidental activist.

This might sound like one of my jokes but I made an appointment to see my GP because I thought I had a spider living inside my head. Every time I was around a loud noise, such as a busy bar, there was a sort of scrambling noise in my ear.

My GP confirmed there were no insects but advised a hearing test. The funny thing about a hearing test is you can’t hear what you can’t hear, so I marched out confidently thinking I’d aced the test. When I was told I had hearing loss in both ears it was a full jaw-on-the-floor moment.



Samantha has become an “accidental activist”

I was fitted with a hearing aid at the same time as I was getting married. I had three wedding dress fittings and only one for my hearing aid. I was given a leaflet with a grey-haired person on the front and sent off to find out for myself what my new status meant.

To start with I thought my life had changed for the worst and felt very tearful. I gave up working the comedy club circuit because of the exhausting noise environment, but I can honestly say being deaf hasn’t held me back.

I created and host my own podcast, The Divorce Social, and I feel being deaf has made me better at interviewing and recognising people’s emotions. I’ve also written two children’s books with deaf protagonists: Harriet Versus the Galaxy and The Night the Moon Went Out.

I’ve developed my lip-reading skills, which it turned out I was already using when I didn’t realise I had hearing loss, and I’m learning BSL (British Sign Language), which you can’t do on the NHS so I’m paying for it myself. I’m currently campaigning for subtitling on all TV programmes, which is so important to many in the community.

I’m also now an ambassador for the RNID charity. I’ve discovered that it takes 10 years on average for someone to notice the signs of hearing loss. More than 10 million of us in the UK have mild to moderate hearing loss and more than a million are severely or profoundly deaf.

Like Tasha, many people in the UK use cochlear implants. They’re very different to hearing aids. They’re electronic devices that can help provide a sense of sound to a profoundly deaf person by stimulating the auditory nerve and sending signals to the brain. Hearing aids amplify sound.

I love it that Tasha’s cochlear implant is bright white. She’s not trying to hide it with her hair, she’s owning it.



“I love that Tasha’s cochlear implant is bright white”

I’ve seen the effect positive role models can have when I go into schools to talk about my books. always show the children my hearing aids and they love that.

I hope Tasha’s not damaged by her experience on Love Island. She seems to have a lovely family surrounding her and hopefully the Love Island team will support her too.

It means a lot that she’s gone on TV as a proud deaf woman. Instead of the negative comments, we should all be flooding the internet with positive comments so that she reads some kindness too.”

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