“SORRY WHAT DID YOU SAY?” -LIVING WITH DEAFNESS FOR OVER 50 YEARS.
This article appeared the Manningham U3A Newsletter in August. We thought it maybe of interest to many of our members as we all age.
Dinesh sourced the links at the end, they are extra interesting reading.
By Peter Goodman.
In 1961, at the age of 19, I first realised I had a hearing problem. I couldn’t hear the tutor at night school or fellow employees at work. I was in denial for 18 months.
I was referred to Mr. George Gray who had the reputation of being the best ENT surgeon in Melbourne at that time. In 1963, he performed exploratory surgery which showed that I had deafness in both ears, a permanent case of Otosclerosis.
He noted that although there was a team in Melbourne developing the bionic ear, Government funding was low and progress very slow. Mr Gray thought success for the team was a long way off, however, it could develop something in my lifetime. Whilst that forecast proved to be very accurate, it was not exactly wonderful news to me at the time.
I was devastated as I had just qualified as an accountant. My whole career lay in front of me and here I was, facing permanent deafness. Mr. Gray warned that I could well be deaf and unemployable after 30. My residual hearing would last maybe 10 to 15 years at best.
Dealing with the problem
In my case , the permanency lasted from 1963 till 2009 – 47 years. I had lost 15% of my hearing at 21 and the future certainly looked bleak.
Mr Gray suggested three immediate actions: purchase two hearing aids; learn lip reading- “It will be invaluable to you throughout your life”; and give away football and cricket – ” Look after your ears!”.
He gave me sound advice in a tense counselling session: ” Only you can manage manage your problem Peter, look at your advantages. You have had a normal schooling, learnt to speak properly, learnt to read and write, intelligent, received a High School education and finally graduated as a qualified accountant. A child born deaf has none of those advantages you have, so learn to utilise your advantages and manage your inadequacies – you will have to in order to get through life.”
Learning to manage.
So I was off to lip reading classes twice a week. I had not yet purchased hearing aids as I was too vain and, like all young men of that age, I knew everything!
I enjoyed lip reading right from the start and quickly realised how much I was already dependent on it. Deaf people start lip reading naturally and don’t realise it. It is a matter of utilising your eyes to pick up clues about the topic that, in turn, complements your residual hearing and that makes a huge difference to your overall hearing and confidence.
I attended lip reading classes for about10 years, had a break of 20 years, then resumed again when I was in my 50s when my hearing was at its worst.
Lip reading certainly assisted me to maximise my residual hearing and it also allowed me to keep putting off the inevitable – to buy a hearing aid.
At one of my annual appointments, George questioned me, ” Why are you such a stubborn bugger, young man, and have not yet purchased a hearing aid?” At the following check-up he was pleased to see I was wearing one hearing aid but stated that he thought he had told me to buy two. He said that last time he looked I had two ears and neither of them worked.
The annual appointments with George became counselling sessions and George was an excellent counsellor. He always questioned me about my work. Had I received a promotion and did I get a salary increase? He was checking on how I was coping at work and whether I was going backwards or not.
Early in the 1980’s, I received a phone call from George asking me to coach and act as a counsellor to help a 22 year old patient to minimise the impact of his series hearing loss so he could better manage his way through life. Over the years, I coached quite a number of young people.
Hearing aids mostly make sounds louder which may not be as helpful in damaged ears. Cochlear implants bypass the damaged part of the ear and stimulate the hearing directly.
In 1978, Professor Graeme Clark implanted the first ever multichannel cochlear implant. Although children were the first to receive cochlear implants, I eventually had them fitted in 2009 (right ear) and 2011 (left ear). So Mr Gray’s prophecy eventually came true.
Secrets to Achieving Success.
I have been very fortunate in having wonderful people to assist me throughout my life.With their help and the aid of modern technology, I have been able to live a normal life and overcome the challenges of deafness.
In particular I was fortunate in choosing the right wife. Lyn was absolutely invaluable in managing the family over the many years when I was working fulltime as well as attending night classes.
These challenges come to many of us, particularly as we age, but don’t despair, there are options available to us to consider, to overcome the condition and allow us to maintain a better quality of life!