DeafHear Regional News

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Story of the Month

My Hearing Story
by Colm O’Brien

Posted: 1st November 2017

Colm lives on the south side of Dublin and is in his early 50s. In our new Story of the Month he writes about how he experienced a fairly rapid deterioration in his hearing in recent years, impacting on his work, family life, self-confidence and sense of self–worth. Earlier this year Colm received a cochlear implant which allowed him to reclaim some of the things he had lost…

 

Losing my hearing

Losing my hearing was a most traumatic experience for me and for those closest to me. Even as I marvel at advances in technology which have allowed me to have a cochlear implant, I can say that deafness has impacted on my whole life. I am now deaf and completely dependent on my implant for hearing. The procedure took away what remained of my hearing and although there was little hearing left to take it has been difficult to come to terms with. I still crave to hear anything without my processor and I am given to occasional bouts of banging hard on a door in the hope of catching a sound.

DeafHear.ie Story of the Month: My Hearing Story by Colm O?Brien
Colm and his dog Lulu

Aged just three years, I lost hearing in my left ear due to meningitis. For the most part I managed well enough and like everybody took my hearing for granted. Then seven years ago I developed tinnitus, which I now know signalled the beginning of hearing loss in my good ear. I attended doctors who assured me it was temporary - but it wasn’t and my hearing began to drop. I eventually got myself assessed and the hearing loss was confirmed. I was fitted with a hearing aid.

A decline to serious hearing loss followed. I became obsessive about my hearing, always checking the hearing aid for faults or blockages. I had a path worn to the audiologist at DeafHear, and she became my counsellor as well as my audiologist. She was a great support. I was slowly becoming consumed by my hearing loss. I purchased a new stronger hearing aid with a remote control which I could never leave alone, as I was always searching for the elusive sounds that were slowly slipping away.

 

Impact on family and work life

My life was hugely affected. Home life became frustrating and I became very agitated, as I felt removed and undermined by my hearing loss. The simplest things became difficult.  Incidental chats were avoided as they became problematic, despite having a very understanding household. We have two children with hearing loss and our 14 year old dog is deaf – but she refuses to wear the old hearing aids I have offered her!

I work as a family support worker and it became increasingly difficult to carry out my duties. The work involves a lot of careful listening. I was reluctant to concede that I could no longer do my job as before. I kept getting myself into messy situations that were awkward for all concerned. I was becoming the issue. Eventually I had to relinquish certain types of work and with the support of colleagues a work plan was devised that allowed me to continue to work. Although I appreciated this I felt diminished by it.

 

Socially I began to disappear

 

Socially I began to disappear. I am a very sociable person and really enjoy nights out with friends, cinema, sport etc. These activities became stressful and I found myself opting out or sitting away from things. The worst time was during the funeral of my mother. I was confronted with throngs of people wanting to talk, but I either pretended I could hear, talked incessantly or slipped away. The funeral was a celebration of my mother’s long life, but I felt removed from events surrounding it.

 

Cochlear Implant

I became a candidate for an implant due to the quick rate of my hearing loss. I began to hope that a solution was possible, but I was disheartened by the long waiting list. I was at a low point during Christmas 2016 and couldn’t see myself being able to continue working.  Out of the blue I got invited to an induction day for implantees. I was told in February 2017 that I could be done within 6 months, and I was delighted. In fact it was all over by March!

DeafHear.ie Story of the Month: My Hearing Story by Colm O?Brien
Colm after his important operation

It happened so quickly. I benefitted from a cancellation. I was both exhilarated and apprehensive at the prospect of the procedure. While I had been assured of the success of the procedure I couldn’t be confident. My left ear was not suitable for an implant, thus I had no ’fall back’ – there was no return from this.

I began to convince myself that my hearing wasn’t so bad and I didn’t really need an implant at this stage. On the ward the night before I was chatting to other patients and it seemed I could hear them clearly. I nearly fled!

I woke up after the operation and with my worst fears realised. I was completely deaf and my tinnitus seemed louder. I was bandaged up looking like Dustin the turkey. I am sure I was offered reassurance from nursing staff if only I was able to hear them. It was a very difficult few hours. I eventually settled in to my new deaf state and I actually found it to be less stressful than being hard of hearing. Now I couldn’t hear anything and I could stop trying so hard!

After a two week wait I had my switch on. I was warned against expecting a eureka moment and to be prepared for a period of rehabilitation. I was very surprised then to experience an ability to pick up voices and sound straightaway, and I was able to identify the Australian accent of my audiologist. Sounds were tinny and strange – but I could hear them!

 

Getting back on track

As time went on I could feel that I was able to join conversations and listen to people without being stressed. I could arrive into situations without worrying about all the potential pitfalls that lay ahead. I no longer avoided social situations but embraced them. I grew in confidence and was able to return to work and feel I could do the things I was doing before. The transformation was huge and I celebrated all the sounds I was hearing with renewed optimism.

 

I no longer avoided social situations

 

Given my recent history of hearing and that my brain was already familiar with a lot of the sounds I was trying to capture. I quickly made progress. I felt pure joy and delight at being able to hear sound and voices that had slipped away. Everything sounded new and exhilarating.

My euphoria has levelled off now and I still am conscious of the challenges that still are in some spaces and places. I am coming to terms with being deaf although, ironically I am hearing much better than before. I have had a frustrating and scary insight to the world of the deaf. I was a mere visitor to this world for 7 years.

 

Deafness is invisible

Deafness is undoubtedly the invisible disability. It is very hard to convey to people how hard it is or how difficult the simplest encounter can become. I was reduced to tears, felt very lonely, isolated and frustrated and took medication to deal with anxiety.

It was hard on my immediate family, particularly as I was not the most patient of sufferers. I would have been completely lost without them.

It is heartening to know this amazing technology is available to sufferers of hearing loss and I am sure there will be more advances in years to come.

Despite good information seminars organised by processor manufacturers, I found choosing hard as I’m not knowledgeable about technology and all processors seemed extraordinary.

I choose the Kanso 6 from Cochlear because it was the first display table I arrived at during  the seminar and I was assured by the Beaumont team that I was a good candidate for this neat and discreet processor. I liked the look of it and how it fitted on to my head. I have to be mindful of having a supply of batteries available and it requires some minding, but overall I am very happy with it although music is still problematic.

This whole experience has been remarkable, distressing, insightful and frightening. I have been through so much and have been on a rollercoaster of emotions. I thank all responsible for allowing me function again, to those who were patient and understanding, and finally to myself: A little pat on the back! I hung in there, took some help from others and came out the other side.

 

DeafHear.ie Story of the Month: My Hearing Story by Colm O?Brien
Colm and his wife Anne

In my case, due to the sharp loss of my hearing I had no choice but to avail of hearing aids and then eventually an implant. As a consequence my recovery has been very good. My memory of sound was still present in my brain, so I had not forgotten what sounds sounded like. I know from speaking with people that hearing loss is very common. I always encourage people who are struggling to get assessed and not allow the situation get so bad that the recovery is made more difficult. The stories of people who eventually invest in hearing aids but then find them too loud or uncomfortable and end up not using them are common. There is only one cure which is to use them, use them and keep using them, and of course keep visiting your audiologist because that’s what you have paid for!

 

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Check out our Mind Your Hearing Campaign for further information on tacking action to address a hearing loss.

 

www.mindyourhearing.ie

 

Resources

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Concerned About Hearing Loss Leaflet

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Check out our previous Story of the Month!

Clodagh: My story so far!

Clodagh Enright, a secondary student from County Kerry, tells us about her experiences growing up as a young deaf person.
Read On…

More Stories of the Month can be viewed here...

DeafHear.ie Story of the Month: Clodagh: My story so far!

 

    


 

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

 

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