Well, here I am writing the first post on my new blog “The Deaf One”. I chose this title for the blog because for me, it’s often who I am. I am surrounded by hearing people when at home, or at work and it’s a label that I feel is often printed onto my forehead in big red letters. I hate being “The Deaf One”. I have got used to it over the years, but it’s starting to take it’s toll now.

A bit of history. I was diagnosed at 2 years old and issued with my first hearing aids at 2.5. My first hearing aids were these two little white boxes that sat in a strap on my chest and had leads that led up to my ears. Incredibly 80’s looking! A few years later I was issued with a huge phonic ear. It was huge! It was one big box that again sat on my chest with leads up to the earmoulds that uncomfortably sat in my ears. My mum has often told of stories where she’d buy different straps to match my dresses and of a longing for me to wear dungarees but alas were impossible, as it made going to the toilet difficult with a big box on my chest to manoeuvre out of! I must ask Mum for more stories, I’m sure it’d make great reading if I shared them on here.

I was 5 when I had my first post aurals (behind the ear hearing aid) which is what people know of Deaf people using today. I remember being issued them, and it being a big deal to everybody but me! I have some memories of my Mum coming into school especially, with the teacher of the deaf and my reception class teacher, and them all waiting for my reaction to having the big box on my chest, literally lifted off my shoulders. And the memory of this event that I hold is the suggestion that one of the grown ups made, to go to the bathroom, have a walk on my own and see what I thought. I remember washing my hands looking down at my new shiny shoes and thinking “I should have had the red ones”. I completely forgot that I had a new hearing aid. It amazes me just how quickly I adapted.

Anyway, during mainstream schooling I used my post aurals and they were sound. I got by ok, I had a lovely teachers of the deaf who helped me through. The teacher would wear a microphone and I got through a million hearing aid batteries! I was very much “The Deaf One” at school. There were a couple of other deaf children in the same school, but they were a couple of years away. I was often the favourite, and got to choose other children to do some baking with me, on a Tuesday afternoon. I got to go with the Deaf Unit to the fish shop, and buy two fish which I then had the privilege of stealing away from class to look after. I had somewhere to go first thing in the morning, while everyone else was answering to registration, to get my hearing aids checked. I was very much looked after, I have many fond memories of the care I received.

Unfortunately I was bullied though. It was harsh to be shouted names at by the other children and then laughed at when I said “Pardon?”. They thought it was hilarious. I remember catching “You deaf bat” once, it tore me to shreds. I didn’t want to be referred to as a rat with wings, totally oblivious to the real meaning of which I understand today.

I’ll probably add memories to the blog as and when I remember them. It may well be a good way of me looking back at my experiences, so watch this space!

When I turned 11 and was due to enter secondary education, I sat an exam which was to get me into a Deaf School. I remember spending the entire summer of 1993 preparing and getting ready, all very Mallory Towers-esque! I watced Mum sew name tags onto every sock, tee-shirt and towel, buy suitcases, new shoes and hairbrush. I chose which Jason Donovan and Tatty Bear posters I was going to put up on my board. I had a “Going Away Party” with my sister who was “Staying at Home”, and all my friends and family came to send me off. Finally on the 7th September 1993 my parents drove me down to Newbury where I started at Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf.

I loved it at boarding school. Everyone else was the same as me, everyone else had the same disability and so we were all in the same boat. The teachers were trained, we were in small classes, wore headphones and had our audiolgical needs catered for at the drop of a hat. It wasn’t all easy, I missed home hugely but I maintain to this day that it was the best thing for me. I made friends who are still solid 10 years after leaving, I got very good GCSEs and the A Levels required to get into University. I found independence, established my Deaf identity and left 7 years later a confident 18 year old with potential.

University was hard. I wasn’t very well prepared for the hearing world – the only downside to a Deaf school. I struggled to make friends and it was probably the first time in my life where I started to really feel the effects of being “The Deaf One”. I stuck out like a sore thumb in lectures, always having to sit at the front, with my eccentric (but lovely) note-takers while the cool dudes sat at the back, passing notes and hiding their hangovers. Nights out at the student union, were tarnished with the fact I couldn’t follow what anybody was saying in the dark noisy clubs. I felt that people had little patience and understanding with me, my enthusiasm for studying was weak as I couldn’t enjoy the lectures. I chose lectures that were squashed together on 3 days, so I could have long weekends at home with my boyfriend. I found it even harder when just before I started my second year, I had a severe Vertigo attack, and lost all clarity of hearing in my Left ear. I was forced to get used to using my Right ear only, the hearing that I had, useable by hearing aid was effectively halved.

I was so glad to leave 3 years later, although I am sad now, that I consider it to be a low point in my education as it should have been an amazing time. I did spend 3 years living in London though, that was a pretty good experience to have.

I graduated with a 2:2 in BA Education in July 2003. I had worked hard, I did do my best but due to lack of information and support from tutors in choosing the subject of my degree, I don’t feel I suited the course and I got bored easily unable to follow class discussions and group projects so I actually consider that I just scraped through. I got a job quite easily following graduation though, the fact that I was able to apply for a council post under the “Two Ticks” policy meant I was guaranteed an interview and luckily my interviewers were simply ace. I enjoyed a happy 2 years in that office, until my contract ran out and I moved on. I have always worked, enjoying the office atmosphere. Answering the phone has always been my sore point, in that it just simply isn’t something I can do easily, and luckily my current office "turn a blind eye” to the fact I just don’t do the telephone. I’ve always worked with the general public, don’t ask me why – it’s one of the hardest things you can do as a Deaf Worker! But the wonderful invention of pen and paper, common sense and generally growing hard skin, has meant it’s been challenging but definitely doable.

Fast forward to 2009 and my second child is born and I find that I am struggling more and more with understanding and following conversation, understanding bus drivers, shop workers and the doctor’s receptionist. It’s almost like, there’s so much going on in my head now, that I cannot physically pour as much concentration into understanding what is being said. My three year old daughter talks really well, but it’s tiresome having to get her to understand that she needs to look at Mummy when she talks to me, and she doesn’t like having to repeat to Mummy five times that she wants a drink. It’s knocked my confidence as a Mum, that if I forget to switch the monitor on just once, my 7 month old daughter has to wait longer than if she had a Hearing Mum for Mummy to come and pick her up after she’s woken from a nap. I’ll never forget the feeling, when my oldest was little, falling asleep after my husband had left for work, unintentionally and waking some hour later and seeing in the cot next to me a screaming baby that had woken god only knows how long ago, unbeknown to me. A mother’s guilt is quite something to contend with once you have children, but if you find that they suffer a little bit as a result of you not hearing something, it imbeds that guilt just a little bit more.

I decided to take the steps to look into a Cochlear Implant shortly after having my youngest, in January 2009 as I just am not coping as well anymore. It has got to the extent where I am just tired of struggling. The GP referred me to my local ENT who agreed to refer me to Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hearing and Rehabilitation Clinic. I have had several appointments so far, which I will blog about next time. So far so good, and I am feeling really positive about the future.

Here,  I will write my thoughts on the CI process, and share with you experiences that I’ve had, memories that have sprung back up to the front of my mind as a result of thinking more about my life as a Deaf person.

Welcome to my Blog x