“I’m still the same person with the same ambitions.” TV presenter Jacqui Hames on becoming deaf

Posted on October 3, 2014

Tell us about your life and career?

After a pretty ordinary childhood in South London, in 1977 I joined the Metropolitan Police at 18 ½ yrs, and from then on life became anything but ordinary.

It is a challenging profession but as one of the few women in policing at the time it was always going to be an uphill struggle being accepted let alone have a career.

But I stuck it out and yes there were difficult times, but it was also fascinating, exciting and at times extraordinary and I don’t regret a day!

I specialised as a Detective in major crime enquiries – murder, rape and abduction – which led me to work on some really fascinating cases.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 13.18.14In 1990, whilst I was working on the implementation team for the countries first Crimestoppers Unit, I was asked to work as an expert presenter live on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme, which I continued to do every month for 16 years until 2006.

I  continued to work in the media as a presenter and commentator on crime issues, and also as a business consultant and trainer in media and stalking issues. I also support Stalking, personal safety and Missing People charities.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?

It’s easy to measure achievement in terms of the big events, but the cumulative success of arriving here today having survived a career in the police, pursued a second career in the media and most importantly raised 2 amazing and adorable children, and now still looking towards new challenges in the future – well that’s all I could ever hope for.

When did you become deaf, and how? What kind of differences did you notice, and what impact did it have on your life?

Just over two and a half years ago I gave evidence at the Leveson enquiry into phone hacking and had been under quite a lot of pressure.

So it was no surprise to me that I came down with a nasty virus shortly afterwards. It was an extremely busy time and when I started to feel a bit better, I carried on dealing with the demands of work, campaigning with Hacked Off and a busy home life.

jhcnw2However I really struggled in conversations and noticed that talking to people, particularly in busy environments, was becoming really difficult.

My family noticed the tv and radio sound was turned up louder and louder and I was continually asking people to repeat themselves. Although I was initially in denial about the cause, I was getting more and more frustrated and exhausted trying to deal with it.

Eventually I went to my GP who referred to me to my local hospital audiology department who confirmed that I had moderate sensory neural hearing loss in both ears, prescribing hearing aids.

Have you used any technology to help you hear more? What difference has it made?

The hospital gave me NHS hearing aids and initially sensory overload hit me quite hard.

Although it was great to be able to hear better, everything was now really loud and seemed reverberate through my head giving me headaches and tinitus.

This did calm down after a while, I suppose my brain had to make adjustments, but I found it hard to get the clarity of sound that would be nearer to ‘normal’ hearing.

Earlier this year I got Phonak aids that were a huge improvement in terms of clarity and locational sound. Plus I have a gadget allowing me to stream telephone calls and music to my aids, which is brilliant and hugely helpful particularly when travelling.

In addition I have a Roger pen which I can place away from me and it transmits sound to my aids, for example when I’m training I can hear questions from the back of the room.

It also helps with hearing tv and telephone conversations. It really is extraordinary what technology is able to do to help now.

What have you learned about being deaf? Did you know any deaf people before?

I have been through a whole range of emotions trying to come to terms with what happened, as it was so sudden and unexpected.

However I am determined that it need not change anything, in the same way that I have reading glasses to make me see better, I now have hearing aids which help me hear better.

I’m a big theatre and concert fan and initially was very upset to think I would no longer be able to go but with modern technology there is no reason for anyone not to continue with such passions.

I didn’t personally know any deaf people before, although I had come across them through work. I think, and hope, that I communicated sensitively with them and just treated them as I would anyone else once the most effective form of communication had been established. But I suppose I was just as ignorant of their needs as most normal hearing people.

We all have challenges getting through life, with aids life can be ‘normal’ but there is always a concern that others will have prejudices that you cannot control.

I’ve learnt to realise that that is their problem not mine. I do everything I can, not to let it affect anything I do, I’m still the same person with the same ambitions and there’s no way I will allow it to hold me back.

What’s next for you?

This year I’ve presented a series for the BBC called BreakIn Britain – the Crackdown (about Burglary) due out in the Autumn and I am currently presenting Crime UK live every week on Sunday mornings for Sky News Sunrise.

This interview was arranged in association with our supporter, Phonak. For more information on the Phonak Roger Technology, please visit: www.hearingadvisor.co.uk

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