I’m 60% deaf, and I’m happier than ever.
This is a pretty in-depth blog that won’t include many photos and one I’ve wanted to write about for a while.
But actually, I did write this post before except when my website crashed, I lost it.
I was gutted, as this post was the one I was truly proud of, therefore I hope I can re-write it well and do it justice again.
I’ve struggled to re-write this post, but nevertheless this is something I’ve wanted to share on my blog for a long time.
A while back, I did a Twitter poll asking you guys what you wanted me to write my next blog subject on.
Out of the four options I gave you, this subject won the majority vote.
I’m touched, and also a little surprised that so many people voted for me to write my hearing loss story, and surprised that so many people want to hear my experience.
So I hope I do this subject manner justice, as it’s taken me a while to build up the courage to write it.
Anyways, here is my story.
It’s Summer 2014, and I’m back home from the summer after just finishing my first year of University. I’m working in my seasonal part-time job as a coffee barista in a busy coffee shop. I’m finding my work colleagues getting frustrated at me for making a wrong coffee order, or mis-hearing them on the till when I should be listening. Once again, I find myself being called into the office to “have a chat” with my manager to see if everything is okay.
Everything was fine. I don’t know why I was making mistakes. Perhaps I’m just having “one of those days”.
This seemed to be a regular occurrence.
At University, when I was studying a Musical Theatre degree; I found myself forgetting instructions that I would previously be given in a dance class, causing the people and the teacher around me to get annoyed at me for “not listening”. I also found myself feeling distracted and not in the zone, when sitting at the back of a lecture. Why was I missing important details regarding the assignment out, with people telling me that “I’ve definitely been told this before”. Why couldn’t I remember?
I’m feeling my own family getting annoyed at me. When my mum calls me from literally the room next door, and I ignore her. Why didn’t I respond?
Then there’s the constant tiredness and always having an afternoon nap. Why was I always tired?
Then one day, my mum said these words to me which made me think: “Do you think you need to get yourself a hearing test?”
Me? A hearing test. No, I don’t need one.
But did I? Why was I struggling to hear certain sentences from a distance, and why was I always struggling to hear people talk to me in loud spaces. Am I stupid?
So I basically went to my local pharmacists where they were giving the free hearing tests, was greeted by a kind gentleman who showed me to a little booth and sat me down. He questioned as to why I was here, as he mentioned it was uncommon that someone of my age (19) would be getting a hearing test. After all, he usually see’s people over a certain age, rather than teenage girls like I was at the time.
I simply mentioned that I came because my mum said I should go as she started to notice something was wrong, so I kinda did it to make her quiet. Although, I remember thinking deep down that there may of been something wrong with my hearing.
So the test commenced. The test basically involves you sitting in a little booth, wearing these huge headphones where you would have several beep sounds played in one ear at a time at different volumes and frequencies. All you have to do is press a button on a remote everytime you heard them. It started with the left ear first, then continued to the right ear.
I remember thinking that I couldn’t hear the beeps as they got quieter in my left ear, but I just thought that because I had been hearing so many beeps at a time, my mind was playing tricks on me.
The test came back, and the man showed me a graph. My right ear showed a line going straight across meaning my hearing was perfect in my right ear. In my left ear however, the line was showing a straight line on the first three dots of the graph, then suddenly the line dropped down completely.
Something was up.
So to try and cut a long story short, many doctors appointments and tests later from one doctor saying I had something stuck in my ear, which resulted to having a scan, to another doctor saying it was just clogged up earwax (eww), I eventually was referred to Northampton General Hospital. Once again, I found myself in another boxed booth 5 months down the line, doing exactly the same test.
Then the results I had been waiting for finally came in: I had 60% nerve damage in my left ear.
I remember just bursting into tears and I couldn’t stop. Not because I was upset, or disappointed. I was relieved.
60% is a significant amount of hearing loss, and for all this time I thought I was just being stupid. I now actually had proof that there was something wrong with me and that I had been struggling for all these years.
I just remember crying so much because so many things were going through my mind: what happens next? what do I tell people? What does this mean for my singing? I did ask the question of whether it would effect my singing and Musical Theatre, as this was something I couldn’t afford to struggle with at the time being in my 2nd year of studying a Musical Theatre degree. Luckily, with the type of hearing loss I’ve lost, my singing and Musical Theatre are not affected, thank god.
I can happily say since, my singing has never been affected because of my hearing loss.
After lots of crying and talking to two female specialists who comforted me and made me reassured that everything was going to be fine, they gave me two options: I could either carry on as I am and just accept that I have a hearing loss, or I could go and get a hearing aid fitted, despite them telling me that this may not make a difference.
I decided to give it a shot and go and get a hearing aid fitted. What did I have to loose?
So a few weeks later, my boyfriend came with me for moral support whilst I went to get a hearing aid fitted. The hearing aid specialist went through everything I needed to know about hearing aids. My hearing aid I wear is a micro-hearing aid, which is one of the smaller hearing aids and not one that moulds in your ear. It’s simply a tiny tube that goes into your ear and the base sits right on top of my ear, so you can hardly see it when my hair is down.
He explained how to keep it clean, how to look after it, all about the batteries and how I was entitled to free hearing aid batteries from my local doctors or hospital by handing in a little brown book which you need to get signed everytime you collect them.
And when the moment arrived when I put my hearing aid in. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I could hear again. Everything was so crystal clear, perhaps even too crystal clear because I had been used to only 40% hearing in my left ear. I felt like one of those kids on those videos you see when they get given a hearing aid and hear for the first time (okay, not as dramatic as that) but I was so happy that it genuinely made a difference.
My boyfriend at the time took it upon himself to test me during our walk through Northampton town on a busy Saturday. He walked slowly behind me, taking a few steps away from me and said my name quietly my name. Oh my god I can hear you! I shouted in the middle of the market square. If I didn’t have a hearing aid in, I would had never of heard him that far away in a noisy busy crowd.
I remember walking back into my coffee shop job the next day and how happy I felt telling my boss that for all this time it wasn’t just me being stupid, but I actually had a hearing impairment. She put me to the test that day, and thankfully my first day wearing a hearing aid at work was success. Obviously, I’ll never regain the hearing that I’ve lost, but it was sure a big improvement as I was actually able to get customers orders right!
3 years on, I’ve left that little coffee shop job and left University and I can say my hearing aid has helped me so much.
I found myself being able to hear much clearly in lectures at University, but making sure I would always sit near the front of the class. I made sure I stood right at the front of a dance class, meaning I could actually take instruction better. My family could call me from the other room and I would be able to respond.
I now work in an office where I don’t struggle as much as I did whilst working in a busy coffee shop. I just do little things like make sure I place the phone to my right ear, instead of my left and I’m happy to talk about it to anyone who doesn’t completely understand what impairment I have, or just simply wants to ask me questions about it.
Now, this story isn’t meant to be a sob story. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.
This post is all about telling you how much happier I am, now that I am aware of my hearing impairment.
Sure, I have off days and days where I get fed up and days where I can’t hear as clearly. I get annoyed at wearing a hearing aid sometimes and I do still sometimes suffer with tiredness from concentrating when I need to the most.
But I’m open about talking about it. I’ve had so much support my friends and family, and they now understand how to communicate with me.
I believe a hearing impairment should never stop you from achieving anything. Or any disability whether it’s one you can see, or one you can’t see. No impairment should stop anyone from doing everyday activities.
Your hearing impairment does not define who you are. Yes, it’s a problem that I’ve had to accept and I’ve taken in my stride, but that doesn’t mean it defines me as a person.
I was incredibly inspired by another blogger, who speaks about her hearing loss over at Deafinitely Girly and she writes some incredible articles. I’m pretty sure she is 100% deaf, but nevertheless, whether you’re 20%, 50% or 100% deaf, hearing loss affects so many people in different ways, and her experience is different to my experience.
So overall, the reason why I’m talking about this is because I want to spread awareness of this subject manner in a positive way. I love taking part in hearing loss discussions, connecting with other deaf bloggers and I want to share my own experiences.
One of the main reasons I started this blog was because I wanted to tell my own story, and share funny/relateable stories regarding hearing loss. And I hope I can make other people who have a hearing impairment see that it’s okay to talk about it, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. Fair enough, you may not want to shout loudly about it, but just to know within yourself that you are who you are and you should be proud of what you have achieved despite all odds.
So hands up if you want to join me in spreading awareness and being proud of who you are! I want to hear from other bloggers who may have a hearing impairment whatever percentage that may be.
Don’t let deafness define you.