“Deafness wasn’t my problem, it was my attitude towards it that was the problem.” Jane Billingham on discovering hearing aids at 47

Posted on August 8, 2014



My name is Jane. At the age of 47, in 2013, I started wearing hearing aids.

I was well aware of my hearing problems 10 years prior to becoming a hearing aid wearer although I decided to hide behind the character assessments people had given me:

Anti-social, ignorant, introvert, shy.

It was easier to accept those character assessments of who I was rather than admit my hearing loss.

2011 was a pivotal point in my life for me, not just because of my failing hearing but in many other areas of my life.

548531_3983419708890_1577657448_nI began my study of Forensic Art, for those of you who are not familiar with this field in forensics, I basically reconstruct faces of human remains for identification purposes.

I began to worry how my hearing loss would affect my study, but I found because most of it was visual it didn’t matter, once again I had another excuse not to do anything about my hearing loss.

Also in 2011, I began to study Micro Expressions and Body Language….ah I thought to myself I don’t need hearing for this either, I’m good, I can carry on passing myself off as a hearing person.

As I began to excel in Forensics I have to admit I did start to worry about how I was going to successfully interact with the hearing world in my work, because as I excelled the more people I had to interact with, such as law enforcement, coroners, medical examiners.

Interacting with them was going to be part of my work, but I said to myself ‘I don’t need to worry about that yet, I’m still a student.’ ‘I can safely carry on studying in my own little world, just me and my study books, my pencils and paper.’

2013 another pivotal time in my life and the event that changed everything.

My hearing had dramatically deteriorated and by this time the constant struggling to hear, ignoring phone calls so I didn’t have to answer it, staying away from crowded places, was just getting exhausting and I was becoming a little depressed.

Not to mention the balance issues, vertigo attacks, and tinnitus (although I didn’t know it was tinnitus at the time). It was beginning to tell on my health and I already had numerous other health issues. I was scared about my future in forensics and I was becoming more isolated than ever before.

10371425_10204098107317936_2379965624291565365_nThat was September 2013, and that’s when I became a hearing aid wearer.

I decided that it was something that needed to be done and quickly. I visited my audiologist and my hearing loss was confirmed, but my biggest shock was discovering that the hearing loss was in both ears.

I felt sick to the stomach for a few minutes. I had initially thought my hearing loss was in only one ear because thats how it felt to me, but it was confirmed I had bilateral hearing loss, although the hearing in my left ear was quite mild compared to the moderate to severe loss in my right ear.

When I was fitted with my hearing aids I was instructed to go outside and walk around for 15 minutes, it was so any adjustments that needed to be made was done before I left.

I am sure many other hearing aid wearers can relate to the fear and anxiety that hit me when I walked out the door out onto the street, but I told myself to get a grip and my life as a hearing aid wearer began.

What a change in life!

I now kick myself for not doing something about my hearing loss sooner, but lets not live in the past. I have a new lease of life, although I knew it was going to take a little time to adjust to my hearing aids.

1441375_10202402415366697_1951486876_nAt the start, anxiety, even headaches were a part of every day life and I thought to myself: this is worse than before the hearing aids, I didn’t want to go out alone.

WOW! here I am almost a year later and now people can’t shut me up, I love being around people, I love joining in conversations.

Although I have to be honest, I still don’t like crossing roads or walking down the street in the dark.

I looked around my room and could see how much my identity had changed, it was now quite obvious it was the room of a deaf person.

What was once a knock on the door became a strobe light, a text message or email message became a flashing light, my neck loop for the TV sitting in its charging cradle ready for when I needed it, my telephone neck loop around my neck like it is a fashionable necklace!

All these little bits of technology for deaf people are just fantastic. Yes things had changed, but I had evolved into this focused out going person who never wants to stop learning.

I have just completed BSL Level 1 and ready to start Level 2 in September.

I am now also pursing Lip Reading For Expert Witnesses to add to my forensic field.

For 10 years I accepted a life of isolation and depression. I don’t blame my deafness, I blame myself, deafness wasn’t my problem, it was my attitude toward it that was my problem.

10307392_10203925013430697_4740524866345629538_n3 months ago, I decided I wanted to play an instrument, so what did I do? I chose one of the hardest instruments to play even for hearing people, the violin.

Was it possible to play with hearing loss? with a few tweaks of my hearing aids and a great violin teacher I am managing quite well.

My hearing aids were quite expensive so I decided to test the technology of them to its fullest. I don’t use a shoulder rest because there is something about the vibration on my collar-bone that works for me.

There are many other deaf violinists out there, in fact many, many deaf musicians so don’t give it up as a lost cause just because you have a hearing loss.

Deafness has put so many opportunities my way, opportunities that I would never have pursued if I had still had my hearing. So with that said I have a lot to thank for my deafness.

I have condensed my story because it could go on and on. I don’t have to tell other deaf people about the discrimination and difficulties that we face.

Although the discrimination has not been too bad for me. I find Airport Staff the rudest. I get it, I really do they are dealing with hundreds of passengers on a daily basis, its a stressful job, but I’m not asking for the red carpet just to look a me when you speak.

I have spent the last 4 years becoming the person that I should be, not the person that deafness and other people thought I should be.

Some people don’t like my change, they think my attitude toward their thinking is….well they think I have an attitude. No – what you are sensing is my lack of concern or regard for your opinion of me.

I have been told by other people that I inspire them and that is wonderful, these are the people that have allowed me to stand out of my shadow and into the light. I have been blessed with such great people in my life.

Who am I today? My name is Jane Billingham – Forensic Artist, Micro Expression and Body Language expert, lipreader, BSL user, violin player……. and the world is my oyster.

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