Deaf Life Stories
My Life Story
My name is Elizabeth and I am 16 years old. I have a unilateral sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear.
Since year 10, I have been lucky enough to have been given a radio aid to use in school. It has been a massive help within the classroom. Before I got my radio aid, I was missing out on a lot of information and important things that my teachers were saying, so I had to work extra hard to catch up with the rest of my classmates, for example staying after school to repeat lessons. Leaving school every day was extremely exhausting because I was just trying to hear! Now, although it is still slightly challenging, it is not so difficult to hear my teachers and the rest of the people in my class. I also feel much more energised after a long day at school! The learning support department in my school are also fantastic at helping me manage and deal with the tinnitus and ear pain I have been getting for a couple of months!
Even though I am the only person in my family and my friendship group who have difficulties with their ears, they have all been a great help! They always try their best not to speak over each other, so I can track the person talking, to make sure that I can see their mouths when they’re speaking so that I can lipread and repeat something they’ve said if I’ve missed it without complaint. They understand that having a hearing impairment makes some aspects of my life harder, so they do what they can to make it easier for me to go about my days.
I also love doing musical theatre! I have been doing it since the age of 4 and want to continue doing it in the future. I also use a radio aid at my performing arts group, and it helps me a lot. My teachers are great at working around my needs. During group singing sessions, my teacher always makes sure that I can hear my part properly and that I am singing the correct harmony with the rest of my group. My drama & Film and TV teacher make sure that I can always hear corrections in a performing space or the director during a film shoot because we’re not always going to be close together. Doing the thing I love, with supportive people around me makes life so much easier, I don’t even need to think about struggling with my hearing as I know that everyone is willing to help me whenever I need it.
I do not let my hearing loss stop me as I can do everything that a hearing person can do! Although it is difficult at times, I am proud to be a part of the deaf community, it has been a big part of who I am today, and I would not change it for a thing!
Can I tell you about my husband's and my Deaf life experience?
When I was young, I had 3 siblings and two of them are deaf. We were not allowed to sign at home especially on the dining table. My father didn't approve of sign language (BSL wasn't recognised till 18th March 2015). I am talking about 45 years ago!
When I was little and lived in Devon where my father was a teacher, my deaf siblings went to boarding school in Burton on Trent. My parents had no choice but put them there, unfortunately they didn't like the school. It closed down in 1985. The school was called Needwood. We had to move to London because there were more choices of Deaf schools in 1965.
When my first son was born, I found out he is Deaf . This is when he was 2 weeks old from a hearing test. I was surprised as I didn't think he would be Deaf. From day one, I read him books and he was taught to read when he was a very little. The second son came along 3 years later and he was confirmed he was Deaf when he was a few hours old. I was relieved because I didn't want one of them is odd out, ( one is deaf and other one is hearing). I did the same with him to read books. Now they are in twenties and they love reading. Not only that but their English are very good unlike me! I didn't want them to end up like me.
My husband, Ken went to deaf boarding school for the boys in on Thames (50 years ago). He lived in Portsmouth, his Deaf parents drove him to school every term (3 hours driving). He wasn't allowed to go home in the weekends till end of term.
Teachers had no deaf awareness and he and the boys were forbidden not to sign otherwise he would get punishment such as ruler hit his hand. He didn't understand the teachers because they weren't signing.
All teachers and the Head worked in residential as well.
He and the boys had to go to church every Sunday wearing an uniform. He didn't understand or follow anything in the church.
No speech therapist apart from Hard of hearing (the only ones who can speak and hear very well). the school was called Burwood Park and sadly it was closed in 1996 due to lack of funding.
He felt he was very lucky to have deaf parents and deaf siblings because of communication (I was the opposite).
Ken's father was also called Ken, he used to run flowers nursery till the war time, then he had to change from flowers to vegetables to help people with food at the war time, he was also a warden during the war to help and keep people safe in hidden places.
EMPLOYMENT AS A DEAF AUXILIARY NURSE
I am writing an article on my life experience in nursing although I left the profession some fifty years ago. Since I was a little girl, nursing had always been my vocation. During my last year at the Mary Hare Grammar School, the senior pupils were told to choose their future careers. My mother read an article in the local paper that nurses were urgently needed . I wrote a letter to the matron, explaining I was deaf and my desire to become a nurse. To my surprise she agreed to let me have the interview. That was in 1957 and my mother came with me as there were no interpreters at that time.
The matron said it would be better for me to work on the children’s ward at Lambeth Hospital as an auxiliary nurse with children aged from babies to 12 years old, because working with ill adults might be more difficult for me lip-reading them.
On my first day it was a real culture shock because I was used to being with my Deaf friends and suddenly I was surrounded by hearing people. On my first day I was asked to bath a baby who had just died. I did not realise that she was dead due to a communication breakdown and I had to put a shroud with red cross on her. I thought she was just very ill.
It was like I was being pushed into the deep end and it made everything easier from then on. The children were really remarkable. When a new child was admitted, it would take about two days for us to establish communication. If one child did not understand me, or I did not understand them, the older children aged 10 or 11 would tell them and me what was being said. Like interpreting.
During my fourth year I applied to the General Nursing Council to ask if it was possible for me to become a qualified nurse but unfortunately the answer was no. Now, nursing has changed altogether. Deaf people can now become qualified nurses.
I had 12 happy years on the children’s wards which I still treasure.
April 1st 2020
I remember growing up in a deaf family and although there were/are some hearing members, they all could sign. I never knew any difference and thought all families were the same. They gave me confidence and belief in myself and that I am equally as good as hearing people. They were open and never said “I’ll tell you later”. No “Do not Sign...use your voice”!