The holiday season when it’s hard to hear

A glimpse of Jody’s experience

Q. Jody, as someone born with profound hearing loss, what were Christmas gatherings like when you struggled to hear?

A. Any group gathering was a nightmare. I vividly remember sitting in the corner, just smiling along and laughing when I saw everyone else laughing. Or I’d position myself at the end of the table, as much out of the way as possible. The social disconnect, even from close family members, just grew and grew.

There was too much noise: multiple people talking at the same time, music and glasses clinking. I couldn’t have a conversation. Not only was it hard for me, it was also hard work for someone trying to talk with me. I wouldn’t get invited to events because my being there created difficulties for others. And I deliberately avoided group gatherings too. 

It was lonely. You need diverse relationships for different forms of companionship and interaction. And to have various people who you can turn to for help, even for seemingly basic things like making a doctor’s appointment. 

Q. What are other defining memories of summer holidays when you were hard of hearing?

A. Swimming in my sister’s pool with the family – I had to take my hearing aids out to swim and I couldn’t hear anymore. When I had swimming lessons, I just copied everyone else because I couldn’t hear anything.

With my kids, we couldn’t go to the big fireworks show because there are too many people. I did take the children to the local, smaller fireworks though. I remember feeling it was a very different experience for us. We couldn’t socialise there the way I saw others doing.  

If you go away for a holiday, then you don’t have all your tricks and gadgets that help around home. At a hotel now, I turn off my cochlear implant to be able to sleep and I lie there knowing that the fire alarm could be going off and I’d have no idea. 

Q. Now, with your cochlear implants having given you the ability to hear well for many years, what do you enjoy about the festive season that you didn’t before?

A. I love singing along to Christmas carols. And I adore going to functions. My favourite thing to do though may seem small but it means so much to me: being able to chit chat with a group of friends catching up in a café. That stuff matters. And it’s not something I did before.

I also love how easy it is in the fish and chip shop now. Before, when I couldn’t hear my order number called out, I had to count how many people were there before me and count the orders coming out. Then hope I went home with the right food.  

Q. What would you like to say to people who donate to Ear Science?

A. The donations are life changing. Thank you. People’s generosity helps to, one day, end the hereditary hearing loss in my family. 

I absolutely believe researchers will find ways to restore parts of the ear when they aren’t working. It may be that my grandchildren can have their hearing loss treated. Being able to hear properly as young as possible makes a huge difference to how a child learns and connects with others – therefore to their entire lives. 

And when donations are used to give someone a hearing device who otherwise wouldn’t have it then that is also life changing. Not just for the individual but their family as well.