It took me two years after I was deafened to reach a stage where I felt comfortable enough to write about my experience of going deaf. Why did it take me so long? I was seriously ill for more than a year due to my underlying illness. I was going in and out of hospitals having scans and tests. I also had an operation to have a stent put in for an aneurysm on one of my arteries, and I was having regular drug treatment to try and get my disease under control. When my condition had been stabilised, I wanted to forget about the whole thing, but it was impossible for me to move on. My life had been turned upside down. I was trying to adjust to the massive impact that sudden deafness had on my life, and that of my wife.
At the same time, I was trying to make sense of it all and I just wanted back the life that I had had before, so I now know that that I was in total denial. I wondered why this had happened to me, and why I couldn’t hear anymore. It just didn’t seem fair somehow and my future now seemed very dark and uncertain. I felt a shell of the person that I used to be. I hid myself away and I didn’t want to socialise or interact with anyone, even my own family. I had had my hearing for 40 years of my life, which I had always taken for granted, so when I lost it, it was incredibly difficult for me to come to terms with. This affected the relationship with my wife and family because they could see that I had become negative, snappy and withdrawn. I would pretend everything was fine, but I was kidding not only myself, but them too. I can remember there was a calendar in the kitchen and when I went to bed each night, I would cross the day off and think to myself ‘thank goodness that’s another day over with’.
The big turning point was when I went on a rehabilitation course organised by Hearing Link. My sister originally found out about this course and Hearing Link soon after I was deafened, but at the time I was vey angry about what had happened to me and I was also in denial. The last thing I wanted to do was talk about my deafness and how I felt about it with a group of complete strangers. I thought it would be a complete waste of time and not for me. But I couldn’t find a way to move on and make sense of the whole situation, so slowly I became more interested in going on the course. I decided that I would go on the course as I felt by that point that it was nothing ventured, nothing gained. My confidence was very low at that point and I couldn’t see a way of getting my old self back. I suppose I also felt that it was last-chance saloon for me
In July last year, I finally got a place on Hearing Link’s rehabilitation programme in Nottingham. On the first day, I was still very skeptical about the whole thing. Then a volunteer called Jan Sanderson who had a cochlear implant talked about her own experience of hearing loss. Immediately, I could relate to what she said, and suddenly I realised I was not alone in the way I thought about losing my hearing, and I suddenly didn’t feel quite as isolated. Also, as the week progressed, I met some amazing people who had all gone through similar experiences, and I suddenly saw the dark clouds that had been hanging over me for so long were slowly disappearing. My thoughts were suddenly a lot clearer and I felt a lot more confident and empowered.
I remember travelling back down to London that Friday. It was when the Olympics were on and there was a real feel-good factor around the place. I felt like I was really buzzing after that course and I remember seeing my wife again and my step-dad Brian, who was going to the Olympics the next day, when I got home. The weather was beautiful and we sat in the garden having a BBQ with a glass of wine. I felt inspired with a renewed sense of confidence about myself. For the first time in years, I felt like my old self. I turned to my wife and told her that I want to write my experience of the journey that I have been on down.