I have a conductive hearing loss in my left ear and, therefore, I wear a hearing aid. I have been hard of hearing since year nine due to a serious ear infection, but my hearing loss wasn’t diagnosed until year 11. I first realised my hearing might be an issue when my friends were whispering to me in class, but I couldn’t hear anything they were saying. They would often make comments like, “aha you’re so deaf.” Little did they know, I actually was. GCSE exams were hard as I could never hear what the invigilators were saying, and I even left early after a maths exam after mishearing what one said, leading to embarrassment in front of the whole year.
After my first term at university, I realised what little support I had at school. Most teachers didn’t even know that I was hard of hearing, and even if they did, they would make comments if I got something wrong like, “you should have been listening,” or “weren’t you paying attention?”. I had no specialist equipment either to help me, so I was forced to sit at the front and lip read, class after class.
It’s amazing to see how things have changed! The support at university has been far greater. Through the DSA I now have specialist equipment, meaning I can sit where I want in lectures and still hear the staff, who all are very understanding of my needs. What has been most beneficial to me is the support I’ve gained through a couple of course mates who are also hard of hearing.
Sharing and discussing our experiences helps us to not feel isolated and ashamed of our differences. All this being said, I still face challenges as a person who has a disability. The availability of subtitles is a massive issue on adverts, live TV, and especially in the cinema. Although I am very open about being deaf, most people are shocked when I say I’m hard of hearing, as my long hair normally covers my hearing aid. I like to raise awareness of hearing difficulties through short films and discussions such as this.