My name is Liane and I would like to share my story and experiences with you. I was diagnosed with my hearing loss in the Summer of 2014. I first noticed I was having issues with my hearing at work. I was working as a trainee sign language interpreter at the time and discovered I was misinterpreting in some situations, luckily for my clients and myself I did not misinterpret anything of a critical nature!
If I’m honest I was in denial for a while about my hearing loss, but due to my job it was imperative for me to get my hearing checked. It came as no great surprise when I was told I had a mild hearing loss and needed hearing aids. I felt it was a little ironic considering what my day job was, but it also meant I had to make a crucial decision, continue with my training to become a fully qualified interpreter or change career paths. I had to weigh up the cost of my training and if the work I would be able to cope with warranted completing my training. I decided to put training on hold.
I currently work as a Communication Support Worker at a college. As I work within a small class, and sit at the front near the tutor, I manage most of the time. However, if students start talking across each other, again, I am in a situation where I am unable to hear effectively and have to ask the tutor to ask the students to speak one at a time. I also work as a Community Support Worker to Deaf adults within the community, as well as run a part-time business, but I still have not made a decision long term on my career path. This will depend on if my hearing deteriorates or remains the same.
I was given my hearing aids at the end of November 2014. When the audiologist switched them on, she asked if I noticed the difference (we were in a sound proof room with just four people). I said no, but then she switched them off and WOW yes, I noticed the difference!
It was very uncomfortable at first, not only having the tube inside my ear but also having the aid over my ear. For the first couple of weeks my ears were very sore and I was glad to take them out at the end of the day. I was told that it would take me approximately eight weeks to really get used to them. I suffered with bad headaches for the first few weeks as the amplified sounds became too much at times. I would often take my aids out as soon as I got home, after all, having four kids amplified was too much after a day at work! The most irritating sound that took me a while to get used to was my hearing my hair! Sounds bizarre I know, but my hair brushing against my coat was so loud and really took some getting used to!
It has taken time to get used to having hearing aids, not only for me but also for my children. My eldest daughter said to me, please don’t wear your hearing aids when you take me to school, I don’t want people knowing you’re deaf. I found her comment a little upsetting but more so surprising, as through my work and social life I have met and made friends with many deaf people. In fact, one of my best friends is deaf and my children have been around deaf people for many years. Her comment was a bit of a shock.
My children, even though they are deaf aware, have struggled to cope with my hearing loss as I often ask them to repeat things and they get frustrated with me, or vice versa. One common difficulty is in the evening if we are watching TV, the kids quite often talk to one another and I will miss things that have been said in the programme. I have now taken to watching TV with subtitles. We are all slowly getting used to it and are adapting, after all we have to.
Even with hearing aids, I still struggle in lots of ways. If the environment is noisy I cannot hear properly and sometimes it all becomes a bit too much and gives me a headache. I also really find it difficult to listen to voicemail messages, especially names, as these are not as clear as when speaking to someone face to face or directly on the phone when you can ask them to repeat something if you haven’t heard it properly. Although I can still hear on the phone, it has to be in a quiet environment and hands free in my car is an issue. In fact a funny thing happened just a couple of weeks ago when using this. I was on my way to my brothers, he rung me and asked me to get him some Sudacream, however when I arrived at his and handed it to him, he looked confused and said “What do I want that for?” I said “You asked for it!” he s said “No I asked for Superglue!!” We all then had a good laugh about it!
One final thing that I am struggling to deal with is how I am seen as a person. I work within the Deaf community and Deaf BSL users are proud to be Deaf as they are part of a community and have their own culture. So when I meet new Deaf people, I sometimes get asked, are you Deaf or hearing? Well, I’m not Deaf in the sense they are, but I’m no longer fully hearing, so I guess to put a “label” on me I am hard of hearing. Also the other thing is filling in forms, quite often they have a question that says, “Are you or do you see yourself as disabled?” Personally, no I don’t but I do struggle in certain situations, so my question would be, “Do you see me as disabled?”