Tamara Marshall: Coming to terms with my deafness

Posted on February 25, 2013

There are times when I assess my life and wish I wasn’t deaf.

I often feel bitterness, frustration and helplessness. I also feel fear; fear of not knowing what will happen in the future. Will I go completely deaf eventually? Will I be able to achieve all that I want to with my disability? Will my children inherit it?

However, there is also a part of me that wants to prove my negative emotions wrong.

As the years have passed since I was fitted with hearing aids at the age of 18, I have slowly become more accepting and open about my deafness.

Now aged 21, I still doubt that I will ever truly come to terms with it, but I have hope there will be a time when I will walk out in public with my hair up and head held high, not even the tiniest bit concerned that someone may see my hearing aids.

I was born with hearing problems and from a young age had regular hearing tests. At the age of 14 I was given Grommets to drain fluid on my ear. Throughout this time I never even considered that I was hard of hearing. I guess I didn’t know any different! By the time I was 17, my hearing loss was considered too severe for me to go without hearing aids.

I always remember the moment I was told. I was devastated.

Ever since, I have struggled to adjust to my deafness. At first I tackled my hearing impairment by pretending it didn’t exist. Keeping my ears covered at all times, I never told anyone in college and my best friend didn’t even find out till we were 20.

At University I only opened up to my housemates in my second year, but even then I felt very uncomfortable and embarrassed.

At work as a retail assistant I also remained silent. In hindsight this did make things more difficult, as there were times I misheard customers and when colleagues thought I was ignoring them. Background noise is particularly problematic in such environments.

Having aids massively knocked my confidence and trust in my abilities. Even now I struggle to join in with certain social situations – mostly out of fear that I will embarrass myself – and simple things I once took for granted, like watching the television and answering the phone, I sometimes find distressing.

Although my deafness has never held me back in my education, it has significantly altered my perception of my future career. I am a determined and very passionate aspiring journalist, but I worry about discrimination, particularly when applying for jobs. Recently I have been studying for an NCTJ diploma in magazine journalism and this has considerably improved my confidence and helped me to realise my potential.

In terms of the causes behind the sudden deterioration in my hearing, I am still in the dark.

Specialists have speculated over Otosclerosis, but are now certain that it is due to inner ear hair cells weakening at an abnormal rate. I have recently undergone an MRI scan and am waiting for results, and there is also the suggestion that I should have a blood test. Unfortunately, I have an extreme fear of needles, so I am relying on hypnotherapy sessions to push me over this hurdle!

For now though, I am left in limbo, unsure of what the future may bring. My last few hearing tests have shown a further decline in my hearing and my last appointment with the specialist introduced me to the possibility of cochlear implants. I left with mascara running down my face and feeling more helpless than ever.

Ultimately, I am pinning all my hopes on stem cell technology and gene therapy. Until then, I strive to be more honest about my deafness and to appreciate that things could be worse.

I strongly hope I will eventually stop feeling like my deafness is an alien part of me, and instead accept it as a crucial element of the person I become; not letting it hold me back or define my life, but allowing it to be my friend.

Tamara Marshall is a 21 year old Media Studies graduate and trainee journalist. She is keen to find a position in London journalism culture and achieve a high flying career, and is most determined to prove that her deafness does not hold her back.

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