Callum Fox: Navigating the jungle (and how audiologists are only interested in the technical side)

Posted on May 9, 2015

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As some of you may have read, I went to the audiologist for a routine checkup and ended up asking many, many questions. Because I asked, I ended up hearing some surprising stuff. Most of the revelations were detailed in last month’s blog.

But there is one little bit of information that I almost forgot about, despite it’s revealing nature. I’ve spent the last few months immersing myself amongst the deaf community on Twitter, reading articles, blogs and features from different people. I’ve come across some excellent work, particularly from this site – Limping Chicken. (to see my writing for the site click here).

As I was leaving the office, I asked the two audiologists in the room whether they’d heard of Limping Chicken and other such sites. The answer was no. They’d never heard of it. They asked about the curious name. Many of you will know how the term came about (If you don’t, click here for an explanation). I asked them if they’d seen the documentary that launched the meme. Again, the answer was no.

That’s very revealing. I’ve always had contact with audiologists over my life, constantly checking and fixing my cochlear implant. I’ve never quite realised that all the support I’ve had from them were purely technical. They’re scientists after all. They don’t bother themselves, it seems, with how CI users are coping with the world. Apart from a few pleasantries, my checkup was exactly that.

The questions they asked were pretty much as follows:

  • Have you had any problems with the implant since we last saw you?
  • Do you need any supplies or anything replacing?
  • We’re going to run some tests now, if that’s ok?
  • Is there anything else you need to tell us?

That’s it. That was pretty much the course of the conversation aside from pleasantries. It occurs to me that they probably don’t know very much about my life and how I coped with my deafness, And I have to wonder, is that true for every patient they have?

All my life, doctors and audiologists have been perfectly willing to offer technical advice and solve any problems with my equipment. But they don’t tell you how to cope with life with a cochlear implant.

It’s like navigating a jungle. Hearing people are well equipped. They’d have a machete, a tent and a compass at the very least. CI users would only have the clothes on their back. We aren’t as well equipped to making our way through the trees and the obstacles we face along the way.

I got lucky. In my early years at secondary school, I met Janet Rogerson. Mrs R, as I knew her then. Janet was a sensory support teacher, employed by Durham County Council to aid deaf children in local schools across the county.


Janet supported me by ensuring that my equipment ran smoothly, and made sure that teachers understood my circumstances. But she also lent me emotional support through some difficult times and became a good friend of mine. Unlike some horror stories I’ve heard over the past few months, Janet kept my parents fully informed of my progress.

This made a world of difference to my school life and my academic performance. To such an extent that I still keep in touch with Janet now even though I haven’t been at school for nearly five years now.

With reports of cuts being imposed by the coalition government, it’s concerning how much support will disappear for deaf children, making an already precarious situation even worse (this article highlights the appalling situation with GCSE results). I cannot recommend Teachers of the Deaf highly enough and they are essential if deaf children are to succeed in school and more importantly, in life.

It’s already trial and error for most people, navigating your way through the pitfalls of school, college and university. But it’s even more so for deaf children. And it shouldn’t be the case. Why should the future of deaf children be left up to chance? I was lucky, but not everyone will be.

There should be some sort of guide for CI users. A Survivor’s Guide if you will. Cochlear Implants for Dummies.

Mmm. That’s an idea, maybe I’ll start cracking with writing one!

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