Since I was first diagnosed with profound bilateral, sensorineural hearing loss at 9-months-old, I’ve had a great support system.
The first and most important professional I met was my Teacher of the Deaf, Sheila, who visited my home once a week for four years until I started school. I can only remember her as an old, kind and caring lady who brought her worn and slightly tatty toys, working tirelessly practicing speech with me. She would repeat over-and-over again the same sounds and words, when all I wanted to do, was watch “The Tweenies” on TV!
My parents were so worried that I wouldn’t be able to talk, but Sheila’s endless patience and perseverance eventually paid off. Two years after receiving my Phonak hearing aids, I said my first word! My Mum loves telling this story: I pointed out of the window, surprising my Mum and teacher, and informed them of a passing “ar” (car!) (I couldn’t hear the higher pitched sounds in those early years.)
The long hard struggle had paid off. I soon picked up a handful of familiar sounds and along with some of our own hand gestures. (We developed our own individual form of communication.) After that, there was no stopping me! I babbled continuously and every new word felt as a gift to those who loved me. My speech developed slowly, but steadily.
After attending playgroup, it was decided that a year at a local nursery school would be beneficial for me as the nursery school teacher had a lot of experience working with deaf children. Luckily I’m still in touch with her today. My short, but valuable year with her gave me the confidence and independence to throw myself into primary school with enthusiasm and a thirst for knowledge. Throughout high school I received many awards, from Principal awards to Community Education awards, concluding in three fantastic A Levels.
Unfortunately I haven’t the time to devote fully to all the wonderful individuals who have been key in helping me succeed, due to their hard work and commitment. Sadly a few of them are no longer with us, but I remember so many of them with fondness and gratitude. From my amazing German language teachers to my (extremely) patient deaf driving instructor, I have been so blessed. All these people have supported me to achieve such great things. Yes, I’ve worked hard, and no, it hasn’t been easy, but together I’ve more than fulfilled my potential thus far. Hopefully, I can show younger deaf people and parents that deafness isn’t a barrier, and anything is possible if you have people who believe in you.
“…anything is possible if you have people who believe in you.”
Throughout most of my life I didn’t really engage with the deaf community. I almost felt in the middle of two worlds; not being able to hear, feeling cut off from the hearing world, but not really able to communicate with deaf people who signed, as I couldn’t understand them either. I found it very confusing and, at times, scary. I didn’t feel I fit into either.
Luckily, my deaf boyfriend helped me to discover my identity almost by introducing me into the deaf community and now I feel I have the best of both worlds. Recently I have joined a sign language class and can appreciate the beauty and importance of the language. Now thankfully I have lots of wonderful deaf and hearing friends.
My boyfriend has also been my inspiration to begin blogging as a way of expressing myself and sharing my experiences of deafness. This led to the exciting opportunity of becoming a writer for HearingLikeMe.com, which has fulfilled my ambition to be able to reach out to others who may be in a similar position. I have been very fortunate to meet so many dedicated and caring individuals who have treated me as an equal and have seen past my disability and believed in me.
I’ll let my forever supportive and hardworking Mum have the last word:
“Receiving the devastating news that my baby daughter was diagnosed profoundly deaf was a prospect we had neither any knowledge nor expertise of, but what was most important was that I never gave up hope and I always believed that Ellen would succeed.
“The long, hard struggle has paid off. She has far surpassed our expectations and wildest dreams. She has flourished and blossomed into an inspirational young ambassador for deaf people and I am confident she will continue to inspire others as those special people she has mentioned above have to her.”
I know my hearing journey would be completely different without all these people, and I’m so thankful to have them in my life. I’m looking forward to meeting more people to grow and learn with along the way, as my relationships and passions continue to thrive.
Make your own Thank-You card to share with the special people in your life, at 70.Phonak.com.