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After losing hearing from Covid-19, man becomes disability champion

disability champion
Stephen Bignell became a disability champion after he lost his hearing. He works for the UK Civil Service, where he’s well positioned to increase awareness.

Unexpected Hearing Loss

Stephen Bignell, Phonak hEARo and disability champion, lost his hearing shortly after contracting COVID in December 2020. Within two weeks, his hearing deteriorated. Initially, there was a feeling of panic, as if he had fingers in his ears all the time. He has since been diagnosed with severe hearing loss in his left ear, and moderate in his right.

Read more: The connection between Covid-19 and Tinnitus

The Wallington, Surrey resident says his wife was a little shocked and upset about his hearing loss. She associated hearing loss with old age — which he says applies to him at a young 57-years-old. Now she’s aware that hearing loss can affect individuals of any age. Bignell and his wife have been married for 27 years and have a 22-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son.

Research Led Him to Phonak

After weeks of research, Bignell says it became clear that Phonak had a wealth of experience in hearing loss is the gold standard in hearing aid technology. After trying and rejecting several other brands, Bignell found that the Phonak Audéo Paradise was by far the best solution for him.

“I am a firm believer in using the power of technology to overcome and improve hearing loss,” he says.

“I am a firm believer in using the power of technology to overcome and improve hearing loss.”

In particular, the Paradise range suits his needs because of the bluetooth connectivity and quality of sound enhancement. When he started wearing his hearing aids, it was a revelation.

Read more: Phonak’s new hearing aid delivers everything nature offers, and more

“I could hear birds and not only lawnmowers and hedge cutters, but the machinery working with them,” he recalls. “I can not only hear my cuckoo clock, but also the squealing of the cogs within it.”

Becoming a Disability Champion

Bignell joined the Home Office in 2004 after four years of working for HM Customs & Excise as a fraud officer. For two years, he worked on passport control at Gatwick. Then he joined Border Force Intelligence, where he worked on drugs, firearms, and people trafficking intelligence operations. After that, he joined Immigration Enforcement as an Immigration Consultant. He helped destitute families and Windrush individuals obtain permanent residence in the UK. His current job involves assessing people applying for security clearance of government assets.

Bignell is involved in a variety of projects, one of which is staff welfare. As a result of his hearing loss, he’s identified the need for the staff to have clear information to assist them in dealing with hearing loss. This includes access to occupational health assessments, reasonable adjustments, and microphones at meetings.

“I have identified that there is an opportunity to make staff aware of hearing loss and support, such as access to work, reasonable adjustments, occupational health, and mental health awareness regarding coping with hearing loss,” Bignell says.

Promoting Technology

Bignell is keen to promote technology as a means of providing solutions, like the Roger line of accessories. He’s working with the Home Office Disability and Occupational Health leads to develop and promote presentations about hearing loss.

“Hearing loss is nothing to be ashamed of, and should not be associated solely with old age,” says Bignell. “I am actively working within the Home Office to counter this view.”

In fact, Bignell says, the perception is that hearing aids are large when in reality they can be small and discreet. His hearing aids are so unobtrusive that most people don’t notice them, he says.

“I can now hear sound that I have not heard for years, which is a testament to the quality of these devices,” Bignell adds.

Author Details
Lisa A. Goldstein has a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley, a digital hearing aid, a cochlear implant, and plenty of deaf-friendly communication equipment. She spends her days juggling life as a freelance journalist, wife, and mother of two in Pittsburgh, PA.