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Story of the Month

Hearing loss and my career
by Dr. Naoimh Fox.

Posted: 1st July 2016

Dr. Naoimh Fox is embarking on a Clinical Psychology course in the UK this September. In this month’s Story of the Month Naoimh tell us how she came to realise that she had developed a significant hearing loss in her early 20s, and the effect of this on her work and aspirations.

When I was 22 years old I became aware of certain high frequency sounds that I could not hear. One weekend I was walking on a path by the beach with my boyfriend. It was a very windy day and the noise of the waves crashing at the shore made it more difficult to hear him. All of a sudden a cyclist overtook me and made me jump. I felt so angry and thought that the cyclist was rude because he didn’t ring his bicycle bell to alert me of his presence. When my boyfriend told me that the cyclist was ringing the bicycle bell for ages I remember feeling confused and didn’t believe it. Story of the Month: Hearing loss and my career by Dr. Naoimh Fox 2016.

Dr. Naoimh Fox

Around the same time my sister was scheduled to get a cochlear implant. She had been on the waiting list for several years as she had to wait until she had become profoundly deaf before being a suitable candidate for surgery.

This was an emotional and stressful time for my family as we were aware of the risks of cochlear surgery and we were worried about how successful the surgery would be in terms of how well my sister would be able to hear afterwards. Thankfully, the surgery was a success and after months of rehabilitation my sister adapted very well to the cochlear implant and we were amazed at her progress.

A year later, at the age of 23 years old I became aware that I had difficulty hearing the radio in the car and talking on my mobile while on public transport. My boyfriend told me that he noticed I was missing certain sounds such as birds chirping, car alarms and high pitched bells.

After what my sister had been through, I told him that I was worried I might be losing my hearing. I realised that I had not had a hearing test since I was 13 years old so I contacted my GP to refer me for a hearing test. The waiting list to see an ENT doctor was seven months so one Saturday I called into Boots pharmacy for a free hearing test.

During the test, I had ‘ringing’ in my ears (tinnitus) and I felt very anxious. When the audiologist informed me that I had mild hearing loss in my right ear I told her that I had ‘ringing’ in my ears and asked if she could repeat the test. However, she told me that she controlled for these errors and the test still portrayed mild hearing loss.

I remember leaving Boots and getting the bus back to my flat, while holding back tears. I felt angry, upset and scared but eventually I plucked up the courage to ring my mum. It was a huge shock for my family. My dad and sister phoned me on Skype that evening (my sister could not use Skype for several years before she got her cochlear implant!) and told me that I would get through this and that hearing aids would be able to help. The idea of wearing hearing aids repulsed me.


The idea of wearing hearing aids repulsed me.


At the age of 24 I was diagnosed with a hearing loss. I was in the final year of my PhD writing up my thesis. This had a huge impact on me emotionally; my tinnitus levels increased and became louder due to stress. Having worked hard, I successfully graduated a year later. After six month checkups with ENT my hearing gradually decreased to severe high frequency hearing loss and eventually I started to lose hearing in my left ear.

I remember at the time thinking that I would be able to cope if I just had hearing loss in one ear. However, when it decreased in my left ear I felt very scared. My ENT doctor informed me that it was very likely that my hearing was following the same pattern as my sister and that I may need a cochlear implant some day. Immediately at that point I felt that my future had changed forever in a negative way and this news terrified me.

How I learned to cope

Since completing my PhD in 2014 I have been working as an Assistant Psychologist (AP) to gain the necessary experience to improve my chances of competing for a place on a three year Clinical Psychology training course. Preparing for interviews has been a huge challenge for me as I have had to overcome a number of obstacles such as informing the organisations beforehand that I wore hearing aids and required a room that did not have an echo for the interview.


I found it very difficult to even say the words.

Losing my hearing has been a huge struggle for me at times. I felt embarrassed, self–conscious and terrified about informing my colleagues and supervisors that I had a hearing loss. I found it very difficult to even say the words. I decided that it would be easier for me to talk to colleagues individually rather than address groups of people. I then had to adapt my communication style in work and in social situations to follow conversation effectively.

This had involved: reminding colleagues that I am hard of hearing and asking them to face me during conversations; asking people to repeat conversation during meetings and speak slower and louder during phone calls; and ensuring I sit closest to the main speaker during meetings.

While my tinnitus levels fluctuate from time to time, particularly when I am stressed, I have tried out a number of helpful ways to manage the tinnitus. For example, at night time (when my tinnitus is usually at its worst) I listen to white noise or relaxing piano music on my Ipod. In the evening I have taken up sewing which helps me to relax. And of course, I try to bring my beautiful golden retriever out for a walk every day.

Since being diagnosed I have worked hard on a number of areas to help me to accept and adjust to hearing loss. I have led a support group for individuals with hearing loss and tinnitus. Through this, I shared my experience of hearing loss and tinnitus with others. I have developed my confidence and assertive skills by joining a local lip-reading class (even though I was the youngest member!), and finding opportunities to talk about my hearing loss to improve my self–esteem.

Over the past year, I have worked hard to develop my confidence and ability to talk freely about my hearing loss. I am still in the process of accepting it, but talking to family, friends and colleagues has helped me a huge amount.


Talking to family and friends has helped me a huge amount.

Hearing Aids

I now wear two hearing aids. I wore my right hearing aid for six months before eventually getting a hearing aid for my left ear. To say it has been an easy, adjustable process for wearing hearing aids would be dishonest. It took me at least nine months to feel fully comfortable with wearing them. While this seems like a long time, there were a lot of factors involved in this process. This ranged from: getting used to the feeling of a ‘foreign object’ in my ears; wearing the hearing aids for a few hours a day and increasing this to over 12 hours a day; overcoming the fear of other people noticing my hearing aids and finally, adjusting to the new sound of my voice while wearing the hearing aids.

I sometimes feel like I am talking into a microphone because the hearing aids have amplified my voice but over time I have got used to my ‘new voice’. Story of the Month: Hearing loss and my career by Dr. Naoimh Fox 2016.

While this may seem daunting to some people who have never worn hearing aids and now require them, I would encourage you to be patient. It has taken me a huge amount of time to accept my hearing loss and wear hearing aids full-time but I have worked hard to be patient with myself and by taking each day at a time.

I have now been wearing hearing aids for nearly 18 months. I have long hair so I used to always wear my hair down to ‘hide’ the hearing aids but now I don’t worry about other people seeing them. To me, hearing loss is an invisible disability and it requires strong assertiveness skills to inform people that you are hard of hearing. I have encountered people who didn’t understand my challenges with hearing and they would get inpatient if I had to ask them to repeat conversation several times. However, I no longer worry about this as these experiences have pushed me to feel more confident and assertive.

Looking to the future

While hearing aids do not give me perfect hearing, I would be lost without mine. I still struggle a lot with background noise so I have learned a few tips over the past year to assist me when talking among background noise. These include: sitting with your back against a wall or in the corner when in cafes/restaurants; buying an amplified phone to use in work; asking for carpeted rooms without an echo when attending job interviews; asking people to text me rather than ring me when I am travelling on public transport; making sure that I am face to face with an individual when having conversations so that I can practice my lip reading skills. Looking back to two years ago I didn’t think that I would ever be able to wear hearing aids but now I realise that my quality of life is much better when wearing them.

Although my hearing loss has been unexpected and life–changing, I have not let this affect my focus on obtaining my dream career. Instead, I have become more aware of and developed my strengths and abilities, which I believe have made me more confident. If you have a disability or impairment – sensory, physical or otherwise – don’t let it stand between you and your goals and dreams.

After much determination I have now been accepted onto a three year Clinical Psychology course in the UK (my dream career!). And I am looking forward to the challenges ahead! Line Break Image


If you think you may have a hearing loss,
consider getting a hearing test as soon as possible!


For more information, visit




Concerned About Hearing Loss Leaflet

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more...Hearing loss costs an estimated €2.2bn every year in Ireland.


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