Hello I’m H! A 25 year old mother, photographer, (aspiring) writer, animal activist…oh and a deaf person.
I have a severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss which has been deteriorating for the past 20 years of my life. My journey to identifying as ‘deaf’ has been difficult, scary and filled with every other emotion you can think of.
At 5 years old my younger self was blissfully unaware I was already experiencing life differently to other children around me. And by differently I mean not realising birds cheeped, a clock ticked and leaves crunch under your feet on an autumn day. But this was soon to change as I failed my hearing test and was referred to my local audiology team for a follow up test.
Glue Ear…. two words which meant nothing to 5 year old me but I would later realise would be the start of my journey into a deaf world. After 4 years and 3 sets of grommets my hearing was still deteriorating – at a slow rate but none of the less deteriorating without me even realising.
At 13 I was given my first hearing aids and I can still remember my feeling of absolute horror and embarrassment that I, a 13 year old teenager, needed a hearing aid! I’ll be the first to admit I was in denial, in denial of needing to rely on something which I associated to being ‘old’.
I had about 3 weeks between being told I would be given a hearing aid and being able to go collect them. Three weeks I tried to convince my mum I didn’t need it. 14th March 2009 I walked up to my audiology department unknowing to the emotional rollercoaster I was about to experience.
I remember seeing the hearing aids- beige in colour, clear plastic tubing and absolutely nothing ‘pretty’ about them. My audiologist helped me put them in and then turned them on.. a moment of silence before my mum said ”how are they?”. I didn’t know how they were, well I knew my mum sounded louder, I knew my own voice sounded different but that was it. And then a few moments of nothing while the audiologist typed stuff up onto her computer and thats when the ‘silence’ was actually the loudest silence I could ever recall hearing. The sound of the keys being tapped, the sound of the clock ticking on the wall to my left, the noise from my shoes as I rubbed my feet together. All of this should of been MY silence but it wasn’t. It was noise, very real noise.. sounds I had previously never experienced or knew even existed.
My walk home was emotional. I cried, laughed and couldn’t believe all the sounds I’d missed and was only just hearing for the first time in 13 years. I thought was hearing loss was ‘cured’ and I’d never miss anything again but unfortunately this wouldn’t be the case…
Fast forward 10 years lying in bed on my side, faced away from the door and scrolling on my phone not realising my mum is stood there calling my name. She walked over, tapped me on the back and startled me. Why did I not hear her? I usually would even without my hearing aids in. I decided later that day to ring my audiology department and request an appointment for a hearing test and to review my hearing aids.
After my hearing test I sat with the audiologist while they pulled my results up and thats when I noticed. I had lost more hearing over the last 10 years. In fact I had gone from having a mild hearing loss to having a severe loss. How was that possible? How didn’t I noticed. I was confused, upset and even angry at myself.
I had been living with a slow deterioration that I didn’t even know was happening. I couldn’t remember any moment in the past 10 years of ever questioning my hearing. I was heartbroken. I felt like a broken human, like I didn’t deserve this to happen to me.
I was given new hearing aids and again, just like 10 years earlier, I experienced sounds I had forgotten were a thing. It was a bittersweet day. Being able to re-hear sounds that had got lost in my memories but also knowing I’d never get my hearing back and thinking of struggles I might face in the future.
I’m now 25 and over the last two years have had a beautiful daughter, started a business and connected with new friends through joining a Deaf community group. Although my deafness is a loss (of a sense) it no longer feels like a loss of ability or life. I have accepted it and I now feel ready to share my journey and all the emotions I felt and continue to feel whether good or bad in the hope it might help somebody else.