I began writing about my experience of hearing loss with my wife last year. It took us about three months to write it down as I had never written anything so personal before. The experience of writing it brought back difficult memories for both of us, but it was also therapeutic, so that I could finally move on.
When it was finished, my step-brother Ian asked me if he could read my story. Ian works as an ENT doctor at St Thomas’s hospital in London. I was very reluctant at first but finally I agreed to send him a copy. Ian told me that he had really enjoyed reading it, as it was incredibly honest and an insight into what it really feels like to lose your hearing. He asked me if I would be prepared to give it as a talk to some audiologists at Guy’s & St Thomas’s Hospital. I wasn’t sure as I had never done any public speaking before, but after much persuasion, I finally agreed and I went with my wife Joanna to St Thomas’s in December last year.
I gave my talk to a group of fifteen audiologists and audiology students. I was incredibly nervous but after I had finished speaking, I got a really good response and the audiologists asked me lots of questions. I was really happy that the talk had been so well received and I thought that would be the end of it. However, a few days later, an audiology student who had been present there, Rebecca, emailed me, telling me that it had opened her eyes to the deeply emotional impact, not only on people who lose their hearing, but also on the people around them. She went on to tell me that afterwards, she felt inspired to do the best job she could for all her patients. Rebecca’s words made me realise that through my talks, I might be able to highlight the emotional impact of hearing loss and hopefully raise deaf awareness among the general public.
I decided to send my talk to Steve, my Volunteer Manager at Action on Hearing Loss. Steve and the rest of the staff there told me how much they had enjoyed reading it as they had seen a big change in me since I first went to see them for help three years ago when I lost my hearing and felt scared and isolated. After a lot of help from Steve and Christy, who has supported me and helped me deliver my talk, I have now given it to a wide range of groups, from Rotary Clubs to health professionals and schoolchildren. I can see that people are really engaged by it and inspired, which I never believed would happen, and I always get lots of questions about it afterwards.
The biggest talk I gave recently was to five hundred schoolchildren at their Disability Awareness Day. Christy didn’t tell me how many children would be there and when I found out, I was petrified! I could feel my heart pounding and I was extremely nervous and shaking. When I had finished it though, I had a real buzz as I could see that the children had enjoyed listening to it and they asked me lots of questions afterwards.
Sometimes I have dark days, but then I’ll read my script back and realise how far I’ve come. I’ll take my dog Jake for a walk in Epping Forest and the dark clouds will suddenly disappear. It has made me appreciate how lucky I am and how important it is to live in the present moment. I’m still hard of hearing, but I feel much more like my old self again.