Well, if you’re going to get to read my blogs and have an understanding of my quirky humour and views in life, you may as well have a history of my deafness and why it made me who I am now.
Birth and early life
I was born in the 80’s, yes I know that makes me fairly old to many people but I was born in the best decade for children’s tv shows in England, hands down! However, although the TV was good, our hospital’s and doctor’s were still very much in their infancy in terms of diagnosing deafness. These days babies have their hearing tested before they are discharged from hospital, through a test call the automated otoacoustic emission (AOAE) test. However back then, depending on which hospital you were born in and whether that hospital had a doctor working with deaf people then it really was the luck of the draw as to your diagnosis. Unfortunately for my parents, they missed the signs and I was sent home to live my happy life! Parents being parents, especially my mum, knew something wasn’t right throughout gorwing up as a toddler. Even though she repeatedly brought this up with the health visitors and Doctor’s, they kindly put it down to being a late developer. It wasn’t until I’d reached the grand old age of 4 that they relented and gave me a test after my speech had not progressed as it should have done that they finally diagnosed me as being deaf. Knowing more about deafness now, I’m probably being too harsh on the hospital, my parent’s can’t remember being asked, but these days one of the questions asked now would be if anyone in the family has any disabilities such as deafness which would have set alarm bells ringing.
As it is, I was diagnosed as having Sensorineural hearing loss and with me I have damage to the auditory nerves which should transmit sound to the brain.
Diagram of ear from NHS website.
I could go into the whole science but that wouldn’t be about me specifically and you’d probably find better explanations from blogs written by doctors!
So what next for me? Well I had to undergo further tests to determine how deaf I was and it turned out I fell on the border of Severe/Profound.
Deaf Levels – In simple terms there are four levels of hearing loss which is normally defined by the quietest sound that we can hear and is measured in decibels (dB).
- Mild -quietest sound ranging between 25 to 39 dB
- Moderate – quiestest sound ranging between 40 – 69 dB, it is at this level hearing aids may be required.
- Severe – quietest sound ranging between 70 to 94 dB, hearing aids are definitely required but lip reading is also usually used as an additional means of communication.
- Profound – the quietest sound ranging over 95 dB. Again lipreading will usually be needed by the person and/or sign language (although people in the severe range may also choose to use sign language).
It was decided that I would be one of the first to use the “new” behind the ear hearing aid instead of the box set that most deaf children (and adults) had to wear before these became available. Using cutting edge technology at the time, these hearing aids were a means of increasing sound levels to nearly those that I would have had if I were not deaf. To me I knew something wasn’t right even at that early age, none of the neighbourhood children had them in their ears, but I trusted my parents to know what they were doing. Other early memories are of me going to my doctors to see a nice lady who made me read out loud, getting me to enunciate words such as “kiss” “smile” which even at that young age made me laugh. I was later to understand that my parents wanted me to attend mainstream school (as opposed to a School for the Deaf) and so I had to undertake intense speech therapy to get me ready, hence this weekly trip to the nice lady to say “kiss” etc.
A year or two later, my parents with the aim of trying to get the best possible treatment for me, pushed to get a firm diagnosis of my deafness and if there could possibly be any treatment, I had the honour of an appointment with the foremost Ear Nose and Throat Specialist in the Country at the famous London Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Even now I can remember those trips to London, a trip on the train in the 80’s and down to London on the old tube system and being allowed a Beano/Dandy being the most exciting thing that I could do. If being deaf meant I got this treatment all the better I thought! However, after endless trips and numerous CT scans of my skull, it was confirmed that my deafness would be a permanent disability and my parents would have to adjust their lives and mine to be best prepared.
School Life and College
I won’t dwell on my school life here, mainly because it wasn’t a happy time. Every child probably experiences bullying of some form or another, and unfortunately being the only deaf person in my schools meant I was automatically seen as someone different and an easy target. As a result, if I’m honest, school life was hell on earth, even now I can remember the fear each morning on waking up, wondering what treatment I could expect that day, on good days and if I kept my head down I would get ignored by the ringleaders who instead chose some other poor victim to pick on. On other days, if I made an error in pronouncing a word, a common thing for deaf people because we struggle to hear certain letters, therefore we are unable to formulate words clearly, I could expect to have the class laughing and mocking directly in my face what I couldn’t say. As with any form of bullying, it might seem light in terms of not being punched, but the pyschological impact still affects me now years later. People probably wouldn’t guess now, but I have an inherent fear of talking in front of people in case I mispronounce a word and that I’ll be laughed at. I know being an adult this isn’t likely, but it just proves the long term effects of bullying.
I never told anyone at school at the time, being one of those people who abided by the school yard rule in that you never “snitch”. I know now that was the wrong attitude to take, and that I should have spoken to someone at school or my parents, indeed when speaking to people who suffer bullying in some form or another, I always remind them that they aren’t alone and that although it is hard, they should try and speak to someone. Anyone reading this, please, don’t suffer silently is my advice. I know how physically and psychologically exhausting it can be combating bullying, but there is help of different kinds out there for you, be it at school, college, university or work.
College and now
I realise I’m condensing my life rapidly, but this single post could be a book if I’m not careful! I promise this will hopefully be my longest post! So I’ll finish this post on a positive note! Leaving school and the immature “children” and having a summer out before going to college to do my A-Levels, I came back to fellow students who didn’t bat an eyelid at my deafness, taking me for who I was, and not being defined by my deafness and my hearing aids. This was a breath of fresh air for me, and it was from this point that I became much more confident as a person, I delibrately chose a college on the opposite side of my school, knowing it would be unlikely many if any of my “friends” would attend, and so it proved. Instead of being bullied for how I spoke, people would instead ask me about my deafness, and how it affected me. I loved explaining, knowing that the more people I could educate, the more people would be appreciative of our issues and the more they would understand how to deal with deaf people without making us feel different from society.
This is the attitude I take even now, and instead of hiding my deafness, I now like to make it blatently obvious, by pimping my hearing aids!
Doing this to my hearing aids gets people coming up to me to tell me how much they love what I’ve done with hearing aids, I’ve had deaf people and parents of deaf children come up to me going “wow!” and saying to their kids in front of me “see, it’s not bad being deaf!”. And that makes it all worthwhile, if I can make a small difference to people’s perceptions of disabled people, and deafness in particular, then I feel I have done something positive in life!
And I suppose to finish off this post is the message that life can be tough, but it’s how we deal with it that determines whether it will be a good life or not. The best thing we can do is to try and make the best of what we have, remember to talk to our family and friends where possible and try and have fun with life! I will moan at points in my posts, but they are generally just that, moans, I do appreciate that I have great friends and a family who love me, what more could I need?? (Lottery win not excluded 😉 )